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The crucifixion of Jesus from the Qur’an

It would be accurate to say that traditionally most Muslims believe that Jesus did not die, mainly because the Qur’an verse of An-Nisa 4:157 seems to “teach” that Jesus was not crucified, nor did he die. This controversial verse appears to confirm the popular Christian view that Islam is an antichrist religion. But does the Qur’an really teach that Jesus did not die? Depending on the interpretation of the following verses it is commonly held by Muslims that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ did not occur:

It is stated in the Qur’an:

That they saitruthd (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God”;- 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:- Nay, God raised him up unto Himself; and God is Exalted in Power, Wise” (an-Nisa` 4:157-158).

Muslim scholars have different opinions on these particular verses. Some believe that God gave someone Jesus’ appearance, causing everyone to believe that Jesus was crucified. In the year 923AD, many centuries after the Qur’an was first written down, Arabic scholar al Tabari suggested 4 possible answers to this perplexing question.

1.) Jesus did not die but was made unconscious on the cross.

2.) It was not Jesus on the cross, but someone else crucified in his place.

3.) Jesus did die, but not on the cross, but later by other means.

4.) Jesus did in fact die on the cross just as the Bible and historians claim.

Most Muslims have traditionally understood this verse to mean that Jesus did not die on the cross, and at the last minute he escaped crucifixion. The most popular explanation is that God miraculously caused one of the disciples to look like Jesus, and in the confusion, one of the disciples, most likely Judas Iscariot, was mistakenly crucified in His place as the second Tabari suggestions quoted above. Thus it looked like Jesus was being crucified, but in reality was not Him and He escaped and ascended to heaven without seeing death. This causes some serious problems that need to be addressed.

The popular Muslims view that someone else was crucified in the place of Jesus does not make sense and most importantly, it would make God a deceiver. If Jesus was taken up by God, and someone else’s face was changed to look like Jesus, then the people would have been deceived into believing that the person crucified was Jesus when, in fact, God had taken Him up. All the people, the Jews, and the followers of Jesus believed that the one who was nailed to the cross was Jesus. After this, the disciples of Jesus went out into the entire world and preached the message of the cross, that Christ was crucified. These disciples and countless others willingly laid down their lives to preach the gospel message – the message that Jesus died to save the world from its sinfulness.

As a result of this, the Gospel of Jesus Christ spread all over the world, and millions and millions of people came to believe in Christ who was crucified. If it was not really Jesus Christ who was crucified then my question is: Who has deceived all these people? The ‘substitution’ theory (that someone else died instead of Jesus) makes God out to be the source of the greatest deception in religious history. The irony is that it is this theory which is perhaps the greatest of all historical delusions, one which has hundreds of millions of Muslims bound in unbelief.

The books of the Old Testament contain many passages about the Messiah—all prophecies Jesus Christ fulfilled. For instance, the crucifixion of Jesus was foretold in Psalm 22:16-18 approximately 1,000 years before Christ was born, long before this method of execution was even practiced. “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” (Psa 22:16-18).

Some Bible scholars suggest there are more than 300 prophetic Scriptures completed in the life of Jesus and there are over 30 prophecies concerning the Crucifixion in the Old Testament. If God tricked people into believing Jesus was died and in reality someone else was crucified in the place of Jesus then this means that God started Christianity by his own deception, and He allowed Christians to be deceived. The whole foundation of the Christian faith is rested on death of Jesus. The historical reality of Jesus death is an essential of the Christian faith. Without Jesus death his resurrection becomes irrelevant, and without the resurrection Christianity itself is rendered meaningless, i.e. 1 Corinthians 15:14 “and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” According to history hundreds of thousands of Christians–men, women, and children–were tortured and killed for their faith in Christianity. This means that God started Christianity and allowed thousands of people to give their life for something that was all a deception.

God is proclaimed to be truthful in all things. Yet, many Muslims believe that God saved Jesus from the death of the cross and will confirm that God only made it look as if Jesus died. If I led a person to believe one thing, then did something else, it would be counted as deception on my part. I would have deceived a person, which causes them to believe a lie and creates a stumbling block. If we (humans) are held to present the truth at all times, then why would God be permitted to deceive mankind through the faked death of Jesus on the cross? I just find this to create an inconsistency in the character represented of God. It seems most incongruent with Islamic doctrine regarding the character of God to maintain that God would have either needed or chosen to resort to chicanery and mass deception in order to spare the life of Jesus. The theory invented by some Muslim commentators that someone else was made to look like Jesus and was then crucified in his place, is simply absurd. The context of the verse cannot be twisted to make room for someone else. No one else is mentioned. Besides, the belief that God made someone else look like Jesus, and die in his place, makes God look very cruel.

Please look carefully at the verse. The question of “killing” is the issue. In response to the claim by the Jews that they killed Jesus, God’s reply is that (1) He (Jesus) was not killed or murdered in the normal fashion (2) He was not killed by the cross! Putting it in other words, the cross did not kill Him. This negates the possibility of Jews killing Jesus in any manner whatsoever, supported by the very last sentence of the same verse: “they could not kill him for certain.” If we further say that someone else was hanged in his place, then we are really messing up everything and failing to see the true message of the Qur’an.

In the verse 4:157 please notice carefully, but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, “wama qataloohu wama salaboohu walakin shubbiha lahum,” means “He was made to resemble to them” or “it was made to resemble to them” or “a likeness of that was made for them” or “a similitude was made for them” — not “someone was made to resemble him”.  In the sentences, “it” or “that” refers to the incident and not a person. So, the verse saying the Jews believe that they killed Jesus but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them.

In fact, I don’t see in Qur’an 4:157-158 a denial of Christ’s death, nor yet a denial of His crucifixion. Actually, I see a harmony between the text of that chapter, and John’s gospel, when Jesus said:

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10.17-18).

The Jews always claimed that they killed the Masih, the son of Maryam (the Messiah, son of Mary). God is telling Prophet Muhammad that although they claimed that they killed the Messiah, in reality they could not murder him nor could they kill him by crucifixion. Then again, in the very same verse, God is telling that they could not kill him for certain.

Two types of death are being discussed here (a) a general murder (b) killing by crucifixion.  The Jews wanted to cause either of the two types of death to Jesus. God assures us that they failed to cause either type of death to him. The traditional Muslim faith is that since Jesus was not murdered or killed by crucifixion, only possibility is that he is never died!!! Even if we read in Qur’an 5:117 Jesus says “…but when Thou didst cause me to die (tawaffaytanee), Thou wert the watcher over them, and Thou art witness of all things.” (al-Ma`idah 5:117 – Shakir)

Also chapter 3:55 states: “When Allah said: O Jesus, I will cause thee to die (innee mutawaffeeka) and exalt thee in My presence and clear thee of those who disbelieve and make those who follow thee above those who disbelieve to the day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, so I shall decide between you concerning that wherein you differ” (‘Ali `Imran 3:55 -Maulana). This verse in so many ways that seems to corroborate with Philippians 2:8-10 which states: “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him, and has given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly ones, and of earthly ones, and of ones under the earth”

God caused Jesus to die is mentioned in both verses 5:116–117 and 3:55. The word tawaffa is used in many instances in the Qur’an to convey the meaning of death. “Say: The angel of death, who is given charge of you, shall cause you to die (yatawaffakum), then to your Lord you will be returned” (32:11).

Even those who cannot understand the Arabic may notice similarity with the words Thou didst cause me to die, Arabic tawaffaytanee in 5:117, and cause thee to die Arabic mutawaffeeka in 3:55, and shall cause you to die Arabic yatawaffakum in 32:11. So, the word tawaffaytanee in the verse 117 precisely means cause me to die.

It is so then that Jesus was not actually killed by the Jews, but it only appeared to them that they killed Him, but in fact He laid His own life down for us on the cross. If Jesus lay down his life and died, it is still valid that the Jews could not (a) murder him or (b) kill him by any meaning.

The confusion arises because God said “…they (the Jews) did not crucify him…”  What is important to understand is the word “crucify” means ‘to kill by crucifixion’.   The reason the Roman’s (and NOT the Jews) put a person on the cross is to kill him according to their custom.  They would not put a person on the cross and later let him go away; so, the word “crucify” has an inherent meaning of killing by crucifixion. We can affirm this understanding from a verse in Galatians. We read in Gal 16:14 “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” We read this verse in Good News Bible translation as follows. Gal 16:14 “As for me,  however, I will boast only about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; for by means of his cross the world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world”The cross of the Lord” means “the death of the Lord” to Paul and that’s why GNB translated the word crucified as dead. We have another example in Galatians 2:20 as it reads in KJV: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: …” and same verse translated in CEV as follows: I have died, but Christ lives in me. …”

That’s why he (Paul) said “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” means “the world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world”. They would not put a person on the cross and later let him go away; so, the word “crucify” has an inherent meaning of killing by crucifixion. Killing by crucifixion was their intent, and with this intent they did put Jesus on the cross, however, they failed to kill him because “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. Remember Jesus said: “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself”.

Ellen White makes a very interesting statement in regard to the death of Jesus:

“But it was not the spear thrust, it was not the pain of the cross, that caused the death of Jesus. That cry, uttered “with a loud voice”, at the moment of death, the stream of blood and water that flowed from His side, declared that He died of a broken heart. His heart was broken by mental anguish. He was slain by the sin of the world”.  (Desire of Ages, page 772).

The Qur’an is not actually denying His crucifixion, nor yet His death. And to consider that He was raised up to life, and subsequently raised up to Allah, as is also in harmony with Bible (John 20.9-17; Acts 1.2-3, 9).  Let’s take a close look at three verses from the Qur’an which is very relevant to the topic of the death 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)!” (Maryam 19:33)

According to the Qur’an passage from which the above verse is taken, the context of the verse is Jesus speaking at the time he was a young boy in the care of his mother Mary. In this verse, Jesus prophetically states that peace will be upon him on the day that he dies, and on the day that he is resurrected to life again.

 “Lo! God said: “O Jesus! Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shall exalt thee unto Me, and cleanse thee of [the presence of] those who are bent on denying the truth; and I shall place those who follow thee [far] above those who are bent on denying the truth, unto the Day of Resurrection. In the end, unto Me you all must return, and I shall judge between you with regard to all on which you were wont to differ.” (‘Ali `Imran 3:55 – Muhammad Asad)

The Qur’an verse says that God informed Jesus that He (God) shall cause him (Jesus) to die. Bear in mind that according to the Qur’an, God is sovereign and omnipotent, and everything that God says He will do, He shall surely accomplish; thus if God said that He will cause Jesus to die, then the omnipotent God verily did cause Jesus to die.

 “Nothing did I tell them beyond what Thou didst bid me [to say]: `Worship God, [who is] my Sustainer as well as your Sustainer.’ And I bore witness to what they did as long as I dwelt in their midst; but since Thou hast caused me to die, Thou alone hast been their keeper: for Thou art witness unto everything.” (al-Ma`idah 5:117 – Muhammad Asad)

According to the Qur’an, the context of this passage is a dialog between Jesus and God [the Father] at some point in time after the ascension of Jesus to heaven. In language that is written in the past tense, in this verse Jesus says to God the Father, Thou hast caused me to die, Thou alone hast been their [followers of Jesus] keeper …”.

From the three passages examined above, it is very evident that according to the Qur’an:

(a) Jesus himself prophesied that he would die and resurrect to life.  (19:33).

(b) God stated that He [God] would cause Him [Jesus] to die.  (3:55).

(c) After his ascension to heaven, Jesus stated that God had caused Him to die.  (5:117).

When the controversial verse of An-Nisa 4:157 is examined in the context of its immediate passage, which is focused on the apostasy of the Israelites and Jews, it is readily apparent that An-Nisa 4:157 is in full harmony with the three Qur’an verses which teach that Jesus died and resurrected to life. The verse is also in full harmony with the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. Thus it is inappropriate to use Chapter An-Nisa 4:157 as evidence to support the claim that Islam is a Luciferian religion because the Qur’an teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross, when in fact the Qur’an actually does teach that Jesus died on the cross and assure us that no one killed Him by the cross.

Thus from context of the verses and from the overall weight of evidence of the Qur’an itself, it is very clear that the Qur’an teaches Jesus did indeed die and resurrect to life. No one took His life from Him. He was not the victim of the schemes of evil men. He volunteered to die for the sins of all men. It was His free choice to substitute Himself in the place of condemned humanity as its stated again and again in the Bible and the Qur’an is confirming the Bible (See 5:48,68-69, 10:64, 2:41, 2:91, 2:101, 3:3, 6:92, 10:37, 10:94, 12:111, 16:102, 35:31, 46:12).

To confirm means:

  1. to establish the truth, accuracy, validity, or genuineness of; corroborate; verify:
  2. to acknowledge with definite assurance:
  3. to make valid or binding by some formal or legal act; sanction; ratify:
  4. to make firm or more firm; add strength to; settle or establish firmly: (Dictionary.com)

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