Georgina Jardim, Fellow, Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, Oxford UK
One of the most prevalent terms in the Quran is the word ayāt, or ‘signs.’ Not only does ayāt designate the individual verses of the Quran, but it occurs extensively within the content of the Quran. Ayāt is most often applied as direct and explicit marker of earthly evidence, not only for the reality of God, but to signify God’s omnipotence. The Bible likewise contains terminology that points to a sacred meaning behind earthly realities. In the Old Testament, the Creation account and the plagues of Egypt in the book of Genesis, the parting of the Red Sea in the book of Exodus and other events in the historical accounts of the nation of Israel, are held up as signs not only of the reality of God, but of God’s presence with his people and as criterion of his prophets. Among other terms, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, calls these events ‘semeia’ - signs.
This term is seen again in the Gospels, written in Koine Greek, particularly in the Gospel of John. The Fourth Gospel makes use of the Greek term semeion (sign, symbol) for seven narratives to mark the work and person of Jesus. What might be the significance of the language of sign for each text and might the language of sign provide a distinct understanding about each? To what extent are ayāt and semeia exact equivalents and how might their comparison explain distinctive aspects in the theology of the Qur`an and Gospel of John?