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.

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    Where would a hadith be found? Are they oral traditions? Commented Jan 10, 2017 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) Commented Jan 10, 2017 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." Commented Jan 10, 2017 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. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 8:02

6 Answers 6


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.


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. Commented Jan 10, 2017 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. Commented Jan 10, 2017 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? Commented Jan 16, 2017 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. .../ Commented Jan 17, 2017 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. Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 4:38

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.


Fortunately no. Neither is there any need for any Christian equivalent of the hadith. The nearest the Christian faith has to the hadith are the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each one of these four accounts is considered as Scripture, fully given by inspiration of God. And each one is easy to understand. Each one stands alone as an account of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that if you have some familiarity with the Old Testament then, at times, you will better appreciate what is written in a gospel account, but such knowledge is not needed to grasp the essential message of any one of the gospel accounts.

The four gospel accounts, then, are the Christian's hadith. But no, they are better, far better, than the hadith, because the Christian faith says that they are given by inspiration of God, and the hadith are never claimed within the Islamic faith to be given by inspiration of Allah.

Because the Christian has these four accounts given by inspiration of God why would he need anything else? God has determined exactly what is needed for anyone to believe, it would be foolhardy to add to his writings.

On the other hand, the writings of Islam must be considered very peculiar to every Christian, and indeed to any neutral bystander as well. Let me explain:

According to the Islamic faith the Quran is the only fully inspired word of Allah. Now the Quran is quite short, being only about four fifths the length of the New Testament. The Quran is also not always easy to follow. Some things are written which can hardly be understood unless you know the historical context in which they were written. And the problem is the historical context is not always declared within the Quran: you have to go to the hadith to find the context, and so to understand the Quran. This seems very peculiar to me as a Christian: why would God not give enough information in his word? Why would he rely on the mere uninspired writings of men before his word can be understood?

If the hadith are not given by inspiration of God then how much can we trust them? Islam accepts this is a problem as well, and has produced a list of the hadith in order of supposed reliability. I do not know how many compilations of hadith there are in total, but the first six in terms of supposed reliability are Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Daud, Sunan Tirmidhi, Sunan ibn Majah, and Sunan Nisai. If something is found in the most reliable of them all, the Sahih Bukhari, then it is possibly likely true, but a Muslim is not required to believe it, he can still doubt it.. after all the Sahih Bukhari is not the word of God. But if the same account is found in several of these six books or other of the hadith then if the Muslim still doubts then the very foundations of the Islamic faith are slipping through his fingers like sand and there's not going to be much else to hold on to.

Those of us who believe the Bible also believe that the first three gospel accounts were written before 70 AD when the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, and that John's Gospel was written about 70 to 90 AD by the Apostle John. We believe Matthew's Gospel was written by the Apostle Matthew, Mark wrote down what Peter preached (according to the early writer Papias), and that the historian and doctor, Luke, carefully interviewed eyewitnesses to supplement what he took from either Mark or Matthew. All four gospels then were written within a generation of the life of Christ, either by eyewitnesses themselves, or by those interviewing eyewitnesses.

What about the hadith? What does the Muslim believe about them? When do Muslims say they were written and how did they come to be? The Muslim believes that the hadith were passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next, through reliable people, until they were finally written down between two hundred and two hundred and fifty years after the death of the founder of Islam, Mohammad. Let me be brutally honest: as a Christian what the Muslim is asking me to believe is that God gave a book, the Quran, which cannot be always understood, so Muslim men commit their trust for the understanding of this book, to other books, which God did not inspire, and which are the result of a game of Chinese Whispers which went on for at least two hundred years. And this is supposed to be a matter of heaven or hell for all eternity? I'm sorry, I think its completely unacceptable, and unbelievable. Allah is repeatedly called "the Compassionate, the Merciful" - to entrust the salvation of men, women and children to such a vague foundation as this is surely not good enough for a merciful, compassionate God. I accept God is Compassionate and Merciful, and so I do not think this can possibly be his handiwork.

So does the Christian have an equivalent to the Muslim hadith? Praise God, NO! He has the gospel accounts, which are clear and sufficient in themselves, and are written to inspire faith in Christ as the Saviour of the world, Jews, and gentiles including any Muslim who will put their trust in Christ as the Son of God. As John in his gospel says at the start of his gospel account

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him and without him was not any thing made that was made... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:1-3 and John 1:14)

and near the end of his gospel account John wrote:

"Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name" (John's Gospel 20:30,31).

Believe on Christ, Muslim friend.


The Hadith are direct and indirect reports of the everyday doings and advice of the Prophet and his companions said to be unreliable, reliable and authentic depending upon the veracity of the chain of transmission. This is to be contrasted with the Qu'ran which is said to be the uncreated word of Allah Himself.

One Hadith I read in Bukhari, which impressed me, is when the Prophet was walking up a hill with a companion. The prophet arrived at the top first and when the companion arrived, he said something like, thanks be to Allah! And the Prophet rebuked him, saying, 'you can make it too much of religion.' This to my mind, made it authentic. After Islam says, one must live with one foot in the other world and one foot in this world. Both are important.

Given all this, the New Testament is similar to the Hadith as its about the life of Christ, his calling, his sermons and his sayings, and his mission; and also of his close companions and like Hadith were written by them, the Apostles.

That said, I've also read from people more qualified than I am: that what Christ means to Christianity, is what the Qu'ran is to Islam. This is because they don't regard the Prophet as being divine, but that the Qu'ran is the authentic uncreated word of God; and so divine; its this common divinity, that these theologians use to make the parallel.

  • It's quite insightful to compare the Qu'ran to Jesus. In Christianity, Jesus is equated with the living, eternal, and divine Word of God (logos) (see John 1:1-14). I can see this through the devotion Moslems have toward the Qu'ran including their care of having the Qu'ran (ideally) studied and intoned only in the original language (Arabic). Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 0:25
  • Similarly, Jesus as a Person is a more essential revelation than the 4 gospels themselves, which are "merely" a witness of what Jesus said and did. That is also why Christians tolerate different theologies (Catholic, Protestant, etc.) as long as certain dogmas about Jesus are upheld (Trinity, dual nature). Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 0:26

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