Crucifixion of Christ

Christians believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross on behalf of all mankind, taking the judgment that people deserve, and has redeemed us eternally from Hell. The

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crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ are at the heart of the Christian belief. Everything that a Christian believes in and hopes for revolves around the death of Jesus Christ on the cross on behalf of the sinners. The Old Testament required a blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sin.  In the New Testament, this has been accomplished by Jesus as that blood sacrifice.

Islam, on the other hand, denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Muslims believe that God rescued Jesus from the schemes of the unbelievers and raised Christ to Heaven. The general Islamic view is that someone else was crucified in Jesus’ place, with most Muslims saying that Judas Iscariot was the one whom the unbelievers killed.

According to this majority view of modern Islamic scholarship, Judas was made to look like Jesus on the night when Christ was to be crucified. They say the unbelieving Jews thought that they had crucified Christ when, in reality, it was Judas that they had killed.

The Quran says that Jesus Christ was neither killed nor crucified:

وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُواْ فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلاَّ اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا

بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللّهُ إِلَيْهِ وَكَانَ اللّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا

That they said (boastfully), “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:- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is exalted in power, wise;- (Surah 4:157-158)

In spite of the Quranic claim that Jesus was not crucified or killed, there is no substantiation within the Quran itself that someone else, namely Judas, died in the place of Christ. All that the text says is that it was made to appear as if Christ had been crucified. How this was done remains unanswered.

To spark further controversy, there are other passages within the Quran which seem to indicate that Jesus did die. It is to such passages that we turn in order to precisely examine whether the Muslim claims that Jesus did not die find substantiation within the Quran itself.

(a) Surah 3:144 says that all the Apostles before Muhammad have died. That includes Jesus.

وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلاَّ رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِن مَّاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ وَمَن يَنقَلِبْ عَلَىَ عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَن يَضُرَّ اللّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيَجْزِي اللّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ

“Muhammad is no more than an Apostle: many Were the Apostles that passed away Before him…” (Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

The term which Yusuf Ali translates as “many were the Apostles,” is the Arabic al-russul and is more precisely translated as “THE Apostles.” The phrase is inclusive and affirms that all the Apostles before Muhammad have passed away.

Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 333 says that when Muhammad died Abu Bakr recited this verse. According to the context, when Muhammad died, many people were reluctant to believe that Muhammad died. They were still saying that he was alive. So Abu Bakr recited this verse and this verse silenced all of them.

Now if Jesus Christ was not dead, people would have at least hoped that since Jesus didn’t die there might be a possibility for Muhammad to be alive. But by the recitation of Abu Bakr it was clarified that, “All the Apostles before Muhammad died.” If it does not include Jesus then it would have read, “All the Apostles before Muhammad died except Isa son of Maryam,” but we do not find anything like this. Therefore Surah 3:144 proves that Jesus died.


(b) Jesus Himself says that He will die and rise up according to Surah 19:33.

وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَيَّ يَوْمَ وُلِدتُّ وَيَوْمَ أَمُوتُ وَيَوْمَ أُبْعَثُ حَيًّا

“So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, And that day I shall be raised up to life (again).” (A. Yusuf Ali)

The word “again” is not in the Arabic text but is Ali’s insertion. Compare Pickthall translation:

“Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised to life.”

Muslims who deny the death of Christ interpret the above verse as an incident that is going to happen in the future. They say, “Jesus will come again and he will die and then he will be raised up alive.” But this kind of interpretation is problematic because the very same phrase is used of John the Baptist (Yah Yah) just a few verses earlier:

وَسَلَامٌ عَلَيْهِ يَوْمَ وُلِدَ وَيَوْمَ يَمُوتُ وَيَوْمَ يُبْعَثُ حَيًّا

“So Peace is on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and that day he will be raised To life (again)!” (Surah 19:15 Yusuf Ali)

According to Islamic belief, John the Baptist lived and died, and will be raised to dwell in paradise at the culmination of time. And yet certain Muslims have Jesus ascending to God before dying, destroying the chronological sequence of the passage.

The puzzling of Surah 19:33 can be seen from Yusuf Ali’s footnote:

“… Christ was not crucified (iv. 157). But those who believe that he never died should ponder over this verse.” (Ali, The Holy Quran [The Holy Koran Publishing Company], p.774, f. 2485 emphasis ours)

One Muslim writer notes:

“No Muslim will shift the death of John (Yah Yah) to the future. All know that John died… since no one can now shift the death of John to the future, therefore no one can now shift the death of Jesus to the future. In fact there is not even one single passage throughout the Kuran showing that Jesus will return to die. The parallel statement with John who died, clearly shows that Jesus also died.” (A.H. Obaray, Miraculous Conception, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus (Nabi-Isaas Taught in the Kuran [Kimberley,South Africa; Pub. By Author, 1962], p. 45)

Even more troubling is this passage taken from Surah 19:31:

وَجَعَلَنِي مُبَارَكًا أَيْنَ مَا كُنتُ وَأَوْصَانِي بِالصَّلَاةِ وَالزَّكَاةِ مَا دُمْتُ حَيًّا

“And He hath made me blessed wherever I am, and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long As I live.” (Yusuf Ali)

According to this reference Jesus is commanded to pray and give alms (zakat) until he dies. Therefore, if Jesus has not died, he must continue to give charity even now while in Heaven!

(c) Verses which talk about the Death of Christ:

إِذْ قَالَ اللّهُ يَا عِيسَى إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ وَجَاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ فِيمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ

“Behold! God said: `O Jesus! I will take thee (Arabic- inni mutawaffeekaand raise thee to Myself And clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme…” (Surah 3:55 Yusuf Ali)

مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلاَّ مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ وَكُنتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَّا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنتَ أَنتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَنتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

“Never said did I to them Aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, `worship God, my Lord and your Lord’; And I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when thou didst take me up (Arabic- tawaffaytani) Thou wast the Watcher Over them, and Thou art a witness to all things.” (Surah 5:117 Yusuf Ali)

The phrases “I will take thee” and “When Thou didst take me” are forms of the Arabic word tawaffa. The term is nearly always used in the Quran to imply one who is taken at death. In the first edition, Yusuf Ali, the translator of the Quran into English, translated the words as meaning I will cause thee to die, but in the second edition he changed it to I will take thee.

Consider the translation of Surah 3:55 and Surah 5:117 by noted theologian, commentator and translator Maulana Wahiduddin Khan: “God said, ‘O Jesus, I shall cause you to die and will raise you up to Me and shall clear you of the disbelievers…. ‘” (Surah3:55)

I told them only what you commanded me to, “Worship God, my Lord and you Lord.” I was a witness to what they did as long as I remained among them, and when You did cause me to die, You were the watcher over them. You are the witness of all things…” (Surah 5:117)

Tawaffa almost always means death when God or angels are the subject as we see in the following Quranic verses:

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

“If any of you die and leave widows behind, they shall wait concerning themselves four months and ten days…” (Surah 2:234 Yusuf Ali)

وَإِمَّا نُرِيَنَّكَ بَعْضَ الَّذِي نَعِدُهُمْ أَوْ نَتَوَفَّيَنَّكَ فَإِلَيْنَا مَرْجِعُهُمْ ثُمَّ اللّهُ شَهِيدٌ عَلَى مَا يَفْعَلُونَ

“Whether we let thee (O Muhammad) behold something of that which we promise or (whether we) cause thee to die, still unto Us is their return, and Allah moreover, is Witness over what they do.” (Surah 10:46 Pickthall translation)

الَّذِينَ تَتَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنفُسِهِمْ فَأَلْقَوُاْ السَّلَمَ مَا كُنَّا نَعْمَلُ مِن سُوءٍ بَلَى إِنَّ اللّهَ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

“Whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging themselves. Then will they make full submission (saying): We used not to do any wrong. Nay! Surely Allah is Knower of what ye used to do.” (Surah 16:28 Pickthall translation)

قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُم مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ

“Say: The angel of death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you, and afterward unto your Lord ye will be returned.” (Surah 32:11 Pickthall)

In light of the preceding examples and the linguistic evidence, we are left with the conclusion that the Quran in Surah 3:55 and 5:117 conclusively prove that Jesus died before ascending to heaven.

(d) There is additional support for this in a hadith in Sahih Bukhari:

Narrated Ibn Masud

As if I saw the Prophet talking about one of the Prophets whose nation had beaten him and caused him to bleed, while he was cleaning the blood of his face and saying, “O Allah! Forgive my nation for they have no knowledge.” Bukhari Vol. 4:683 (Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan’s 9 volume translation)

The only one who was beaten and uttered such words was Jesus Christ, as He lay crucified on the cross ofCalvary:

“There were also two other criminals that were led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals; one on the right and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, `Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” (Luke 23:32-34 NKJV)

(e) Then, what is the Interpretation of Surah 4:156-157?

But this still does not resolve the issue since the Quran in Surah 4:157 denies that Jesus was crucified. There are several possible solutions in trying to reconcile what appears to be a contradiction. On the one hand, the Quran seems to imply that Jesus was crucified and actually did die. Yet, on the other hand, the Quran explicitly denies that the Jews crucified or killed the Messiah.  How then can Surah 4:156-157 passage be interpreted?

In a penetrating article on this subject some years ago, E. E. Elder remarked that ‘the verse does not say that Jesus was not killed, nor was he crucified. It merely states that they (the Jews) did not kill or crucify him. This is true historically, although the responsibility was theirs, the Roman soldiers actually did the work … But there is another sense in which neither the Romans nor the Jews crucified Jesus. At Pilate’s judgment, Jesus answered …” Thou wouldst have no power against me, except it were given thee from above”.‘ (John 19:11) … The Jews thought they killed Christ, though ‘ they did not certainly kill him‘. In fact, men could not kill the Messiah, only God could do that, in his mysterious purposes. There is a parallel to this interpretation in Surah 8:17 when the Muslims were rejoicing over the victory at Badr and taking all the credit to themselves. They were sternly reminded that man can do nothing of himself, a doctrine that became deeply rooted in Islam. (Jesus in the Qur’an, Geoffrey Parrinder, Oneworld: 1995)

فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوهُمْ وَلَكِنَّ اللّهَ قَتَلَهُمْ وَمَا رَمَيْتَ إِذْ رَمَيْتَ وَلَكِنَّ اللّهَ رَمَى وَلِيُبْلِيَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْهُ بَلاء حَسَناً إِنَّ اللّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

Ye did not kill them but God killed them, and when thou didst throw, it was not thou but God who threw. (Surah 8:17)

The Jews wanted to kill Jesus because many people were following Him. They believed that if they let the people follow Jesus then, within no time, all the people would be followers of Jesus and there would be nobody to follow or listen to the Jewish authorities. This would cause them to lose their position and power since so they wanted to kill Jesus Christ. The Romans killed Jesus because they thought that by acting for the Jewish authorities the Jews would be pleased with the Roman government. But in reality, it was neither the Jews nor the Romans that killed Jesus. It was God who laid the sins of mankind upon Jesus. Jesus took the punishment and judgment of the whole world and His blood was the sacrifice for mankind’s sin.  Jesus came to fulfil the Law (Torah). 

(f) Popular Islamic theory – Substitution theory

Many Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross, but that Allah changed someone else’s face to appear like Jesus.  People thought that the other person, whose face was changed to look like Jesus, was actually Jesus and they crucified him. This theory is known as the substitution theory.

Substitution theory makes God a deceiver:

The popular Islamic 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 that was 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 all the 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 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.

Substitution theory is against the eyewitness report and historical evidence:

Today if someone said, “Gandhi was neither shot nor killed but simply vanished. Somebody else was killed in his place,” what would be the reaction of the present generation? Would anybody agree with that person? The reasons why people would not agree with him are because he is neither an eyewitness, nor are his views supported by the report of the eyewitnesses.

The substitution theory is not credible because firstly, it is contrary to the exact record of the eyewitness testimonies that it was “Jesus of Nazareth” who was crucified. (Mat 27; Mark 14; Luke 23; John 19)

Secondly, these substitution legends are contrary to the earliest extra-Biblical, Jewish, Roman and Samaritan testimonies about the death of Christ.  Although there are many such reports, here are some of them:

(1) Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (A.D. 37-100), wrote “There was a wise man that was called Jesus…Pilate condemned him to death by crucifixion.”

(2) A Roman historian named Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55 – 117) wrote the “Annals,” a history book covering the reign of four Roman emperors succeeding to Caesar Augustus. These Annals speak of “Christ being executed under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.”

(3) The earliest reference made to Christ outside of the N.T is by Thallus, a Palestinian historian, in A.D.52. He spoke of the “darkness which accompanied the crucifixion of Christ.”

(4) Mara bar Serapion (A.D. 73), a Syriac manuscript in theBritishMuseum, has a question: “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished.”

(5) In the second century, Justin Martyr referred to the “Acts of Pontius Pilate” under whom “nails were fixed in Jesus’ hands and feet on the cross; and after he was crucified, his executioners cast lots for his garments.”

(6) The Jewish Talmud, speaking of Jesus’ “execution,” declares that “on the eve of Passover Yeshua [Jesus] was hanged.”

In spite of the fact that all of these writers were opponents of Christianity, they confirm that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

Thirdly, there is not a single first century testimony to the contrary by friend or by foe of Christianity. The earliest substitution legends were not from the first century, and none of them were based on any documented evidence of eye witnesses or contemporaries of the events.

Dear reader, truth should correspond to reality. Every claim should be substantiated by the factual evidence. I have presented here enough evidence to prove the death of Christ. I want you to carefully look at the evidence and see whether it makes sense to believe that Jesus was crucified, or to just simply say that Jesus vanished and someone else was crucified in his place, for which there is no evidence.

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Crucifixion of Christ
Crucifixion of Christ