Crucified Jesus in the Qur'an

Islamic view of the crucifixion of Jesus

A big difference between Islam and Christianity is that Islam denies the crucifixion of Jesus. Muslims deny that Jesus died on the cross and therefore they don’t believe he rose from the dead. They believe that Jesus was lifted alive to heaven and will return to this world and die: “And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness.” (Qur´an 4:159).

Does the Qur´an refute Jesus´ crucifixion?

Muslims use the following verse to deny the crucifixion of Jesus: “That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not” (Qur’an 4:157 – Yusuf Ali). Who are “they” in this verse? From Qur’an 4:153-156 it becomes clear that “they” are the Jews. Indeed, the Jews did not crucify Jesus. The Romans crucified Jesus. Crucifixion is an execution method of the Romans; the Jews used other methods, such as stoning. Qur’an 4:157 treats the statement of the Jews that they killed Jesus, the Messiah. It is not a denial of the crucifixion of Jesus. "So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"! (Qur’an 19:33 – Yusuf Ali). The verse is telling us that God had planned death and resurrection for Jesus. It are the words of Jesus from his cradle. The first event, born had already taken place. About the other events, death and resurrection, Muslims and Christians don’t have the same view. Some verses in the Qur’an support the view that Jesus died (Qur’an 5:17, 5:57).

Did Jesus die according to God’s plan in the Qur’an?

“And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.” (Qur’an 3:54 – Pickthall). Allah replied the unbelievers his own plan. There are no details of this plan. When the crucifixion of Jesus is not the plan of God’s salvation, as Christians believe, what is then God’s plan? May we conclude here this is the complete review of God’s plan in the Qur'an? That is not likely. There are more verses: “(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ.” (Qur’an 3:55 – Pickthall). The verse is telling about God’s will to cause Jesus’ death and lift him up to himself. The words “Gathering the soul” mean that someone died. On the day someone died, the angel of death gathers the soul. All souls will be brought before Allah (Qur’an 32:11) [1]. Now we have to seriously consider this question: is it possible that Jesus died according to God’s plan? Remember what the Qur'an said about Jesus:“Say: The angel of death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you, and afterward unto your Lord ye will be returned” (Qur’an 32:11 – Pickthall). When we conclude that this verse supports the death of Jesus, then his resurrection was before he went to heaven.

Historical evidence

1. Flavius Josephus

He was a Jewish historian of the Roman Empire. Josephus wrote in his book Jewish Antiquities (94 A.D.) about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ: “And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him” [2].

2. Cornelius Tacitus

A historian of the Roman Empire who mentioned Jesus’ crucifixion in 115 A.D. [3]: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular”.

3. Mara Bar-Serapion

A philosopher from Syria. He speaks in general terms about the crucifixion and death of Jesus in the first or second century [4]: "What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burying Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given" [5].

4. Thallus

He was as Roman historian. In Julius Africanus referred to the writings of Thallus in 221 A.D. about the darkness that covered the land during the crucifixion of Jesus: "Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away the darkness as an eclipse of the sun--unreasonably, as it seems to me." [A solar eclipse could not take place during a full moon, as was the case during Passover season.] This is an indication for the miraculous darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion [6].

5. Babylonian Talmud

The Talmud (second century) is a Jewish religious document and mentions the execution of Jesus [7]: "On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover".

6. New Testament

The New Testament is part of the Bible. There are more than 4000 different ancient Greek source documents from the first en second century. The difference between the source documents is so small, that also non-Christian scholars agree that the New Testament is surprisingly free of mistakes over so many centuries. The New Testament is telling us that Jesus Christ was crucified, that he died and resurrected: “When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left” (Luke 23:33). “So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs” (John 19:32-33). Historical evidence leads to the conclusion that Jesus died on the cross by crucifixion. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death is one of the best documented historical facts. Even atheist scholars agree: “Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable” [8].

The historicity of Jesus´ crucifixion

1. Crucifixion predicted

Jesus Christ predicted his death:“As you know, the Passover is two days away - and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2).

2. Sacrifice of Jesus

Jesus made the decision to die according to God’s will for the forgiveness of sin. By his crucifixion, Jesus demonstrated to all who witnessed his death, the grace that would flow from that death [9]: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). For the salvation of mankind, Jesus did not come down from the cross alive instead of being buried in the grave. Jesus still had a free will to choose all options when he was arrested. He had divine power to defend (Matthew 26:53).

3. Cruelty of Jesus´ crucifixion

Crucifixion is cruel, because the executed man died slowly and painfully, till he could not breathe any more. Jesus Christ was crucified:“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left” (Luke 23:33). Jesus had to be crucified, because it was not sufficient for the believers only to witness his death, without crucifixion. In that case doubt might rise up in the minds of the believers. Since the enemies of Jesus Christ saw that he really suffered when he was crucified, then the believers could be certain that he really died and rose from death.

4. Jesus died on the cross

Jesus Christ died in the hands of his enemies and there can be no doubt about his death [10]: “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:37-39). The death of Jesus Christ was not the end. Jesus resurrected as the first human being:“The Lord is risen indeed” (Luke 24:34). Many Christian today who will tell that Jesus is alive. The evidence that Jesus has resurrected and that faith in Jesus Christ comes from the living God.Does the Islamic tradition have false views about crucifixion?Christian witnessesMuslim scholars have been teaching that “not a single Christian was a witness with them” and that no Christian witnessed the crucifixion [11]. This is a misunderstanding of the crucifixion of Jesus, because Jesus’ disciple John was standing at the cross (John 19:26), the disciple Peter at a distance (Mark 14:54). Jesus’ mother and other women who followed Jesus were also at the crucifixion (Luke 23:27, John 19:25, John 20:25-26). Substitutionist solutionIslamic tradition accepts crucifixion as a historical fact, but denies that Jesus was crucified because of they believe that God will protect his messengers. Muslim scholars have explained the Qur’an verses about the crucifixion in such a way that not Jesus, but another person was crucified. According this substitution solution, Jesus went immediately to heaven without crucifixion. However the Qur’an nor later Islamic tradition doesn’t suggest such a phantomlike appearance of Jesus [12][13]. However the Qur’an says Jesus is faultless (Qur’an 19:19) and a men better than faultless is a contradiction.Other alternative theories. Many Muslims today are aware that the Islamic tradition has not the right view about crucifixion, such as Mahmoud Ayoub: “Why … does the Qur’an deny the crucifixion of Christ in the face of the apparently overwhelming evidence? Muslim commentators were not capable of refuting the crucifixion convincingly… Commentators have taken the verse as a historical statement. However, this statement, like all the other statements about Jesus in the Qur’an, does not belong to history, but to theology in the broadest sense” [14]. There is no evidence for all alternative theories of Muslims for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Reflection

Even when someone denies the crucifixion after reading the historical and biblical evidence, there is the challenge that there has to be a reason why the Christians, a Jewish sect, were able to survive in an area where every Jewish sect was prosecuted by Jews and Roman Empire. The Jews executed the Christians because Jesus as God was blasphemy to them. The Romans killed the Christians because they said Jesus is Lord, while the Roman Empire demanded that Caesar is Lord. The Christians said that they believed that Jesus died on the cross and resurrected and with them the same. Jesus was crucified and resurrected; otherwise the Christians could not have such a strong motivation to continue:

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25).

References

  1. Ibrahimkhan O. Deshmukh, The Gospel and Islam, GLS Publishing, Mumbai, 2011, p. 229.
  2. Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18, 63 in: William Whiston et al (translators), The Works of Flavius Josephus, John E. Beardsley, p. 1895.
  3. Alfred John Church (ed.), Complete Works of Tacitus, Random House, New York, 1942, Book XV, Chapter p. 44.
  4. Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus, A Comprehensive Guide, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1998, p. 78.
  5. W. Cureton, Spicilegium Syriacum, London, 1855, p. 43-48.
  6. Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus, A Comprehensive Guide, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1998, p. 85.
  7. The Babylonian Talmud, I. Epstein (translator), Vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a, Soncino, London, 1935, p. 281.
  8. Gerd Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Christ, Prometheus, Amherst, 2004, p. 50.
  9. Mark Beaumont, Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis Of Christian Presentations Of Christ For Muslims From The Ninth And Twentieth Centuries, Regnum Studies In Mission, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2005, p. 85.
  10. Ibid, p. 83-84.
  11. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, Second Edition, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 2002, p. 280.
  12. Mahnoud Ayoub, A Muslim View of Christianity, Maryknoll, New York, 2007, p. 160.
  13. Ibrahimkhan O. Deshmukh, The Gospel and Islam, GLS Publishing, Mumbai, 2011, p. 230-231.
  14. Mahnoud Ayoub, Redemptive suffering in Islam, A Study of the Devotional Aspects of ‘Ashura’ in Twelver Shi’ism, The Hague, 1978, p. 116.