Much as pious Jews use variants of im yirtseh Hashem (“if God wills it”) when discussing plans for the future, pious Muslims say inshallah or bismillah. But the first explicit mention of this practice comes from the New Testament (James 4:13–15), which castigates those who don’t use the expression for their arrogance. Shlomo Zuckier notes that the three religions’ similarity in this regard was noted by the English churchman and orientalist John Gregory in a 1646 Bible commentary:
Given the strong Christian tendency to understand [Christian] norms as authorized by Hebrew scriptures, it is not surprising that Gregory puts his historical scholarship to the work of establishing a prophetic origin for this teaching. “The Jewes gave the first example, and they themselves brought it into use.” He cites the Aramaic Alphabet of Ben Sira, a medieval Jewish text composed in a Muslim context, but presenting itself as having been authored by Ben Sira—“beleeved by them to be Jeremie the Prophet’s Nephew”—in biblical times.
Gregory’s historical reconstruction is flawed. Ben Sira is not the source for the passage in James but rather its descendant, born through the mediation of Muslim texts. And σὺν θεῷ (with God) was common in Greek literature (e.g., Sophocles and Plutarch) before any biblical influence.
But his effort presents a fascinating model for a concurrent process of scholarship and constructive theology. Gregory asserts the Jewish sources of James’s teaching and the exemplary zeal of Muslim and Jewish practitioners in its implementation. He does not do so in order to discredit Muslims and Jews or to argue the superiority of Christianity. Rather he offers his history as an inspiration for all believers to appreciate better the role of God in the world. His message is explicitly framed as relevant for all nations under Heaven: an example of a historical study of sectarian co-production put to the work of a cross-religious message.