This degree of similarity is amazing given the chronology. All the Christian examples date from the second or third centuries, none of the Muslim examples is recorded before the ninth century. Yet they breathe exactly the same atmosphere.
It’s actually not too hard to see how such early sayings would have been preserved and transmitted, and the clue might be in the world-denying quality of many sayings — the world is a bridge! Such words would have been treasured by Eastern Christian monks and hermits, in lands like Syria and Mesopotamia. We also know that from earliest times, some Christian monks and clergy accepted Islam. The Koran reports how their eyes filled with tears, as they prayed, “We do believe; make us one, then, with all who bear witness to the truth!”
But however it happened, here is a startling thought: perhaps the Muslim tradition gives us several dozen more plausible Jesus sayings than we ever thought we had.
Philip Jenkins is a Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor Universityand author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.