The ‘ahl al-kitab’ are almost universally understood to mean ‘the people of the bible’ who are the Jews and the Christians. The understanding contradicts the rest of Quran as The Bible is never mentioned as the book of Jews and Christians. Rather, the word ‘al-kitab’ (the writ/book/command) must be looked at in context because it is a relative term as the ‘al’ particle shows. The first call to the people connected to ‘al-kitab’, appears in Chapter 3. It appears straight after the lengthy story of Isa (3/35-64). In fact, one could argue that it is first embedded within the story itself in the form of a commanded saying in 3/64:
Say, “O ahl al-kitab, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah .” But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims
This ‘equitable word’ is none other than the Quranic personality isa himself who is a sign to the worlds. This sets the ‘al-kitab’ in this context to be the ‘kitab’ of isa, or the story of isa in Chapter 3. Please note that we do not consider 3/64 to be one of the calls to ahl al-kitab because of the word ‘qul’ (say) before it. The first call is instead the next verse which opens a new section in this chapter:
O ahl al-kitab, why do you argue about ibrahim while the taurat and the injeel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason (3/65)
This is the first call to the Reader as ahl al-kitab. At this point, the reader is part of isa’ system (ahl al-kitab, that is) is told not to argue about ibrahim, who is the ideal of deen. Ibrahim’s level of deen is required for the tawraat and injeel system to take place which refers to the practice of the system and its results (ratified by 48/29). 3/66-69 continues to talk about ibrahim and disputing about him. This shows that becoming like ibrahim is essential for isa’s system to be realized.
The next call is a single verse call in 3/70:
O ahl-kitab why do you disbelieve in the signs of Allah while you witness
The phrase ‘signs of Allah’ (ayatillah) is the highest level of signs showing Allah’s personal intervention in the events of isa (as 3/55 would confirm). The ahl al-kitab are witnesses to this but disbelieve in the signs.
Next comes the longest passage to the ahl-al-kitab in Chapter 3, beginning:
O ahl al-kitab, why do you clothe the truth with falsehood and conceal the truth while you know