Muslim here; I'm not particularly familiar with Christianity (so bear with me please). In Islam, we have hadith:

A hadith is one of various reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Question: Is there a Christian equivalent of the Muslim hadith, but for narrations relating to Jesus?

I'm aware of narrations relating to Jesus in the Bible, such as curing leprosy:

And Jesus put forth His hand and touched him, saying, “I will: be thou clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. -- Matthew 8:3

But this isn't exactly equivalent, as a hadith is ordinarily of the form "Muhammad said/did this", and is separate from the Qur'an.

Searching for hadith on this site reveals Does Christianity have any other books besides the Bible that the disciples use for following?, but this is about books, rather than narrations. Searching for "christian equivalent of hadith" or "christian narrations of jesus" wasn't helpful.

  • Where would a hadith be found? Are they oral traditions? – Matt Gutting Jan 10 '17 at 2:08
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    The most reliable hadith are now at sunnah.com. Yes, they're oral traditions; a short example is: Abdullah is reported to have heard Allah's Messenger as saying: "When any one of you intends to come for Jumu'a prayer, he should take a bath." (link) – Rebecca J. Stones Jan 10 '17 at 2:16
  • For most Christians, the four Gospels in the New Testament are the only accepted narrations of Jesus' words and actions. Although there are a number of other surviving Gospels that purport to provide other sayings of Jesus, few Christians accept them as genuine. Basically, the answer to your question is "no." – Lee Woofenden Jan 10 '17 at 2:19
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    @SimplyaChristian Yes, but making it into a real answer suitable for this site would have taken more time than I had when I reviewed the question. Besides, I figured there were probably others here who could do a better job of answering it than I can. So my comment was really just a place-holder. – Lee Woofenden Jan 10 '17 at 8:02

Many narrative gospels were written about Jesus,and four of these were judged by the Church Fathers to be authentic and were thus included in what is now known as the New Testament. You appear to know of these, but for completeness I will list them as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are reports of the actions and words of Jesus, at least during the period of his ministry. They were written more than four decades after the death of Jesus and are no longer widely believed to have been eye-witness accounts.

Even earlier than the narrative gospels, there appear to have been at least two books in the form that you may be looking for: "Jesus said this ..." One of these is the Gospel of Thomas, which is somewhat outside mainstream Christianity, to the extent that many Christians would deny that its sayings are authentic. The second is known as the 'Q' document, or 'Q' gospel. Whereas we now have later copies of Thomas, no extant copy of Q has yet been found, and its former existence can only be hypothesised from parallels in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. As both Thomas and Q were written in the Greek language, we can assume neither was written by an eyewitness to Jesus.

Another ancient document now known as Oxyrhynchus 1224, of which only two very small fragments remain, might have been an early sayings document, but too little of the text is extant to be at all sure of this.

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    It would be more accurate to say that it is believed by some that the gospels are not eye-witness accounts. The Gospel of John claims to have been written by one of the original apostles, and the author of Luke and Acts claims to have interviewed eye witnesses for his material. It is also believed by many that the Apostle Peter was likely consulted by Mark and was therefore the primary source for his gospel. Thus it is likely that large parts of most of the gospels (but possibly not all parts of all the gospels) were collected from eye witness testimony. – Paul Chernoch Jan 10 '17 at 15:14
  • @PaulChernoch I respect your views on authorship of the gospels, and John's Gospel can be read as including a claim to authorship by an apostle. But Raymond E. Brown (*An Introduction to the New Testament *) said as far back as the last decade of the twentieth century that the majority of scholars have shifted towards the position that John was not authored by an eyewitness. I was not making a Truth statement about authorship, but I think accurately reflecting the consensus of commentators. – Dick Harfield Jan 10 '17 at 21:10
  • @DickHarfield Interesting you say that. It's the first time I've heard anyone saying that John wasn't authored by John. (aside from megaskeptics who reckon that every book of the bible was written by someone other than the author according to tradition). Is this the consensus of Christian commentators or secular commentators? – TheIronKnuckle Jan 16 '17 at 23:27
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    @TheIronKnuckle Thank you for your interest. You probably already know that John was originally anonymous and not attributed to John until late 2nd century. R.E. Brown (now deceased) was a Catholic Priest and Professor of Theology, hailed by Cardinal Roger Mahony as "the most distinguished and renowned Catholic biblical scholar to emerge in this country ever" . His standing was such that he also held senior academic positions in Protestant universities. So, when he says the majority of scholars, he was speaking with utmost integrity. .../ – Dick Harfield Jan 17 '17 at 4:36
  • .../Wikipedia says "A significant minority [of of modern biblical scholars] consider the traditional account of John the Apostle's authorship to be genuine. I can attest that it is indeed a minority among all serious NT scholars who still hold this view. I hope this helps. – Dick Harfield Jan 17 '17 at 4:38

The Gospels might be considered akin to the hadith in how they are used. The Catholic and Orthodox sects of Christianity read the Gospels in a similar way to the hadith, as the start of a divinely inspired oral and written tradition which involved building a centuries-long consensus over interpretation and practice. The Protestant sects read the Gospels in a very different way. Each person reads the Gospels alone (sola scriptura) and forms his own judgments about them, sometimes with the assistance of a church community.

There are also a few orthodox "hadith" which are not in the Gospels but are found in early Christian writings and other documents. These are called "agrapha". However, agrapha are treated as akin to the more dubious hadith. They were first assembled in a single book by the German Alfred Resch in 1889. Since then they have been followed by some other textual discoveries, but none of these really contribute to the tradition of the Church in any of its mainstream forms.


Yes. There's two close matches for what you're looking for.

The not-as-close-but-interesting one

These are called agrapha, or "not written". They aren't as exhaustive as the hadith, but they are the closest you can get within modern scholarship. They are often distinguished from the 114 sayings in the Gospel of Thomas (which now only attests to certain agrapha) as well as be attributed to Jesus by others, not simply put in his mouth (a la the Pistis Sophia or the Didache). Examples of such agrapha include:

  • "It is a more blessed thing to give, rather than to receive." — Acts 20:35 [1], likely circulated independently as a saying of Jesus in the first decade after his death

  • "He who is near me is near the fire; and he who is far from me is far from the kingdom [of God]." — Origen, Homilies on Jeremiah 20:3[2]; independently attested to in Logion 82 of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas[3]

  • "Be skilled money-changers, rejecting some things, but holding fast that which is good." — Clement's Stromata 1:28:177[4]

  • "In whatever things I take you, in these I shall judge you." — Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 47, paragraph 4[5]

  • "Those among you who desire to see me and inherit my kingdom must receive me through sorrows and toil." — The General Epistle of Barnabas 7:11[6]

Clement of Rome (not to be confused with the Clement of Alexandria mentioned above) exhorted his audience in First Clement [chapters 2:1, 10:1, 13:1-3, and 46:8] to hear and obey the 'words of Jesus our Lord,' although based on these quotations we can assume that he was referring to an oral tradition that had been preserved by the Corinthian community, which may or may not make it agrapha.

What I think is pretty darn close

Furthermore, Papias of Hierapolis wrote or compiled a work entitled Exposition of the Sayings of Our Lord, which has been lost except for ten fragmentary quotations[7] by Eusebius Pamphyli Theophanies 4:12 and Irenaeus of Gaul Against Heresies, 5:33:3-4. While we obviously can't be sure of its content based on these, it is more than likely that a few agrapha or otherwise unattested sayings of Jesus made their way into the text; which makes its loss tragic indeed for the New Testament scholastic community [8]. One saying is found in Irenaeus' magnum opus, and can be found here:

"The days will come in which vines will grow, each having ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten thousand clusters, and in each cluster ten thousand grapes, and each grape, when pressed, will give twenty-five measures of wine. And, when one of those holy ones takes hold of a cluster, another cluster will cry, 'I am the better cluster; take me, bless the Lord through me!'"

"In like manner," the Lord declared, "a grain of wheat also will generate ten thousand heads, and each head will have ten thousand grains, and each grain five pounds of clear and clean flour, worth twice their weight. And the remaining fruits and seeds and manner of fields will follow after in congruence with these, and all the animals using these foods which are taken from the earth will in turn become peaceful and consenting, subject to men in every command."

— Irenaeus of Lyon, Adversus Hæreses, Book V, ch. xxxiii, para. 3, 4[9]

As for if there is any Christian equivalent to the Islamic hadith, I'd have to say that were Papias' Expositions still extant or preserved to a much larger degree, then it would take the cake. It provides quotations of Jesus, much like the hadith does of the prophet Muhammad and an explanation of what the author(s) believe he meant by this, probably chock-full of scriptural references. The deeds (miracles and short stories) of Jesus are in what scholars call the 'signs gospel' which is only hypothetical and was (if it ever existed) likely from the same community that wrote the gospel of John; in any case, Expositions of the Sayings of Our Lord comes the closest to your definition of the Muslim hadith.



There is an incongruity, I think, in trying to find an equivalent to hadiths in Christianity.

Whereas Mohammed is understood to have authored (received) the Koran and delivered it to the people on God's behalf, Christ is understood to have delivered His own Person - as God-Man - to the people as God Himself. Whereas Islam is founded on a book (the Koran), Christianity is not: it was founded on the person of Christ.

Several of His disciples recounted Christ's words, actions, and habits later in a series of books we call the Gospels. Other disciples wrote commentaries on the Christian life with practical instructions that were compiled in a series of Epistles (letters); one disciple (Luke) wrote a history of the early Church (the Book of Acts); and another wrote of a special revelation he received from God (the Apocalypse). The Church was not established on these books, but rather these books were produced by the Church itself.

So if one is looking for an equivalent to hadiths as they pertain to Christ in Christianity, then one need look no further than the Gospels. If one is interested, however, in an equivalent to hadiths as they pertain to the various authors of the books of the New Testament, then you might look to what are called the Synaxaria - collections of the Lives of the Saints - for information about the lives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc. These writings, however, are not terribly formal and aren't even recognized by many Christians.

I don't think this is a terribly good answer to your question, but, as I state, I do not think that there is an exact equivalent to the hadith in the sense that it is understood by Moslems.

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