Islamic Apologetics: Jesus’ Crucifixion and Islam’s Catch 22 Problem

The Qur’anic view, which is also the orthodox Islamic view, rejects the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion. The Qur’an states:

“And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain” (4:157-158, Pickthall translation, emphasis added).

Here the crucifixion of Jesus is rejected because the Qur’an teaches that God did not crucify him. Those saying that Jesus had been crucified are mistaken. The crucifixion is not therefore factual; rather, God took Jesus to heaven. The late Muslim apologist Ahmed Deedat (1918-2005) articulated what he considered to be the orthodox Muslim view,

“On the subject of crucifixion the Muslim is told in no uncertain terms in the holy Qur’an, the last and final revelation from God, that they didn’t kill him nor did they crucify him, but it was made to appear to them, and those who dispute therein are full of doubts, they have no certain knowledge, they only follow conjecture” (1).

The Historicity of Jesus’ Crucifixion

But the burden is squarely on the Muslim apologist’s shoulders. It is indeed a heavy burden not only because of historical evidence but also because all mainstream historians agree that Jesus died by crucifixion (2).

It is reported in many sources both inside and outside the New Testament. We find it attested in pre-Mark, Q, John, Paul, Hebrews, 1 Peter, Clement, Ignatius, Martyr, Josephus Flavius, and Cornelius Tacitus. This is eleven independent sources, excluding some later sources, that attest to the fact that Jesus died by crucifixion. The crucifixion is also attested in early sources and passes the criterion of embarrassment and coherence. Scholar Bart Ehrman says that “The crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans is one of the most secure facts we have about his life” (3). Scholar Luke Timothy Johnson agrees saying that “The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its coagents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned and executed by crucifixion” (4).

Based on these reasons, the Muslim rejection of the crucifixion of Jesus is incredibly difficult to defend on historical grounds.

Jesus Predicts His Impending Death

Further, there is good reason to consider it genuinely historical that Jesus predicted his death. According to the gospels, Jesus predicted his imminent death and resurrection multiple times: Mark (8:31, 9:9, 9:30-31, 10:33-34, 10:45, 12:1-12 14:18-28), M (Sign of Jonah: Matt. 12:38-40), L (Prophet Cannot Die Outside of Jerusalem: Luke 13:32-33), John (2:18-22, 3:13-14; 8:28; 12:32-34), and possibly even in Q.

Given this testimony, that Jesus made this prediction is strongly established across independent sources and can be taken as historically genuine without reasonable doubt.  

Additional reasons support this fact, for example, the criterion of embarrassment. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus hopes to escape the inevitability of his impending death (Mark 14:32-40; Matt. 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46). This certainly does not paint Jesus in a brave and courageous light but makes him appear weak and incapable of carrying out his divine mission. 

There is also the embarrassing portrayal of the disciples not understanding Jesus’ passion predictions or simply not believing him when he made them (Mark 8:31-33; 9:31-32; 14:27-31; Luke 24:11, 21). The details show that twice Jesus and his disciples are portrayed in a negative light. According to ancient historian Paul Maier: “If the story of Holy Week were a pious invention of writers who wanted to portray a superhero, this scene would never have been included” (5). 

Furthermore, the criterion of plausibility applies to Jesus’ prediction of his impending death. Jesus’ death comes as no surprise within the Jewish-Roman historical context precisely because he made enemies with the prominent Jewish leaders given his controversial claims and activities (6).

A final reason to accept Jesus’ prediction of his death as historically genuine is its connection to his Son of Man sayings. Jesus called himself by this title many times: Mark (2:10, 28; 10:45), Matthew (13:37), in his suffering and resurrection (Mark 8:31;9:31;10:33), and in his eschatological function (Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62; Matthew 10:23; 13:41; 19:28; 24:39; 25:31). It is also attested to in Q. According to Ben Witherington III,

“Almost all scholars, of whatever affiliation or persuasion are utterly convinced that Jesus used the phrase “Son of man” to refer to Himself. This phrase is found in all the source layers of the Gospels whether we think of distinctively Markan, Lukan, Matthean, or Johannine material, or even in the sayings source that Luke and Matthew seem to have both drawn upon. By the criteria of multiple attestations this phrase has the highest claims to have been spoken by Jesus of Himself and used frequently” (7).

The Son of Man title appears in every gospel layer and multiple literary forms and was never applied to Jesus by the later church. As observed, many of the Son of Man sayings involve Jesus’ prediction of his impending death. This is an additional reason to accept that Jesus predicted his imminent death given that it is linked to his most used self-title.

The Islamic Catch 22

This presents a strong challenge to Islamic apologetics. If Jesus really did predict his violent and imminent death (which we have noted can be established on historical grounds) and that God rescued him from such a death, then he is a false prophet. He is a false prophet because his predictions failed to come true. But this contradicts the Qur’an because it refers to Jesus as being a true prophet several times,

“And verily We gave unto Moses the Scripture and We caused a train of messengers to follow after him, and We gave unto Jesus, son of Mary, clear proofs (of Allah’s sovereignty), and We supported him with the Holy spirit” (2:87, emphasis added).

“O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers” (4:171, emphasis added).

“Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him. ” (57:27, emphasis added)

These texts teach that Jesus was an inspired prophet of God to whom Allah revealed truth. But if we follow the historical evidence and conclude that Jesus was crucified, then this would also contradict the Qur’an because it teaches that he was rescued from death (4:157-58). 

The Muslim apologist is now stuck in a catch 22 situation: if Jesus predicted his death and failed to die, then the Qur’an is mistaken for it incorrectly claims him to be a prophet who speaks the truth. If Jesus predicted his death and died, then the Qur’an is mistaken because it rejects his crucifixion. Either way, the Qur’an is mistaken.

It is clear why this is a problem for the truth of Islam itself, particularly because the Qur’an is so essential to the religion. For Muslims, there is no book that is the Qur’an’s equal. It is considered to be the literal words of God that were spoken directly through the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. It was revealed from God via a “true spirit” (26:193) and it provides readers with “guidance” (2:2) and a “clear light” (4:174). Allah is the guardian of his revelation (15:9) and nothing can change in his words (6:115). In Q18:27, we read that “There is none who can change His words, and thou wilt find no refuge beside Him.” According to Q10:64, “There is no changing the Words of Allah.”

But, the critic points out, the catch 22 dilemma surely problematizes this lofty view of the Qur’an. It would suggest that the Qur’an was not revealed by God or a true spirit and cannot act as a guide and clear light. Allah would have failed to guard his revelation despite the claims to its inspiration.

References

1. Joel Williams, “Debate: Was Jesus Raised From the Dead? (1983),” YouTube Video, June 24, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8NZe2fzHjY&t=3664s [see 38:36-39:20]

2. Borg, Marcus. 1999. The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions. New York: Harper Collins; Mcintyre, John. 2001. “The Uses of History in Theology.” Studies in World Christianity 7:1-20. p. 8; Dunn, James. 2003. Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 339; Ludemann, Gerd. 2004. The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry. New York: Prometheus Books. p. 50; Eddy, Pauk., and Boyd, Gregory. 2007. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Ada: Baker Academic. p. 127; Stewart, Robert., and Habermas, Gary. 2010. Memories of Jesus: A Critical Appraisal of James D. G. Dunn’s Jesus Remembered. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group. p. 282; Ehrman, Bart. 2019. Why Was Jesus Killed? Available.

3. Ehrman, Bart. 2019. Ibid.

4. Johnson, Luke T. 1996. The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus. New York: HarperCollins. p. 125.

5. Maier, Paul. 1997. In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications. 

6. Evans, Craig. 2016. Did Jesus Predict His Violent Death and Resurrection? Available.

7. Witherington III, Ben. 2016. Did Jesus Believe He Was the Son of Man? Available.

5 comments

  1. Hi,
    In the Book of Revelation 22:7, Jesus said, “Behold I am coming quickly!
    It’s almost 2000 years since that was said and he hasn’t come!
    What do you think the problem is?
    Wouldn’t it help his followers, if he returned?
    The reality is:
    THE RELIGION OF MOST AMERICANS – IS CHRISTIANITY – A SECT OF JUDAISM
    It must be seen and rejected as Jewish mind control at its most basic. It exists to confuse and disarm Gentiles and in its extreme forms to protect Jews. If it weren’t for Christianity and its passive, surrender-based nature, the Jews would not be around today to cause us so much trouble and expense and international bloodshed. The teachings of Jesus, whom the Jews pretend to hate, have kept the Jews alive and well.

    MOSES WAS A PSYCHOPATHIC WAR CRIMINAL
    “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses”
    (Deuteronomy 34:10)
    Yahweh, a being of simple and bloody tastes

    “One night while Moses was in camp, Jehovah was about to kill him.
    But Zipporah [his wife] circumcised her son with a flint knife … So Yahweh did not harm Moses.
    Zipporah said, ‘You are a bridegroom of blood’.”
    – Exodus 4.24-26.

    NUMBERS 31:13-18:
    (13) Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp.
    (14) But Moses was furious with all the generals and captains who had returned from the battle.
    (15) “Why have you let all the women live?” he demanded.
    (16) “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the Lord at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the Lord’s people.
    (17) So kill all the boys and all the women who have had intercourse with a man.
    ( 18 ) Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.

    JESUS ENDORSED MOSES:
    “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, in whom you have put your hope. 46 If you had believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me. 47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”…
    John 5:45 47

    JESUS ENDORSED THE TORAH
    For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
    Matthew 5:18

    WHAT NO CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDS IS THAT THE BASIS OF THEIR RELIGION IS A MENTAL ILLNESS CALLED JUDAISM
    CHRISTIAN BELIEFS ARE NOT SANE BECAUSE THEIR BASIS IS ROOTED IN JUDAIC EVIL

    Judaism is morally bankrupt; it has nothing to offer us but out-dated plagiarized myths, about some angry judgmental god that is remarkably exactly like the Jews themselves. The anthropocentric supremacist myths of the Jews should have little appeal to a person of high consciousness; such exclusionistic ideas are an anathema to any decent human being. The idea that you need salvation from a Jew should go against ever cell in your being, if not you need to examine what great fault lies within yourself.

  2. We don’t even take the bible as an authority , it’s corrupted ; you don’t even belive the bible is the word of god ; right ? since so many authors & they wrote what they want

    But the person was given the shape of jesus , and so it was not jesus but the person who came in & see if jesus was there , because the jews wanted to basically kill him

    There is no contradiction in the Quran ; thehistory says he’s crucified only because it was seen so ; but it was another man who was given the appearance of Jesus (peacebe uponhim); &

    there are even verses in bible , we can argue that they say jesus is not son of god & a messenger
    “Why do you call me good? answered Jesus, No-one is good but God alone!” [Mark 10:18]
    Acts 3:26-27

    “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed. When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.”
    This Also Refutes the claim of proving Jesus’s divinity in John 8:58

    Matthew 15:24 states:
    “Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep–the people of Israel.”

    Quran states: 21:107
    “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.”

    Deuteronomy 18: 18-19:- The Lord said to Moses:-l (God) will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put MY (God’s) words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I (God) command him “If any one does not listen to MY words that the prophet speaks in MY name, I myself will call him to account.”

    Note:”From Among Their Brothers”Explanation:-
    (a) Meaning of brothers-Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and his 14 year junior Isaac. Their descendents were therefore cousin brethren to each other. This prophecy addresses Moses that a prophet will also come from the progeny of Ishmael. Hence the use of word brothers.

    (b) Christians try to suggest that this prophecy is for the coming of Jesus. This is wrong. It is neither for Jesus nor for any of over two dozen prophets who came between Moses and Jesus because they all were from the progeny of Isaac. Ishmael was brother to Isaac and Muhammad came from the progeny of Ishmael. Therefore this verse is pointing towards Muhammad.

    (c) You must listen to him i.e. follow him.
    (d) I (God) will put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I (God) command. Quran was revealed by ALLAH to Muhammad over a period of 23 years. The very first line of all revealed Surah’s begin with- “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, and Most Merciful.”

    Explanation:-
    (a) Muhammad is the desire of all nations because in the message of Quran which he brought, lies the salvation of mankind.
    (b) I will fill this House with Glory, is Khana-e- Kaaba at Mecca.
    (c) When Haggai 2:6-7 is read with Malachi 3:1 and Deuteronomy 18; 15 and 18:18, and Isaiah 21:13-17 one is forced to conclude that all Biblical prophets were professing about the coming of Muhammad who is symbolically called as the Prince of Peace, the desire of all nations, the comforter, the counselor, the helper, the Paracletos, the Paraclete, the spirit of Truth, the Holy One, the Rider on the camel, the light, and the messenger etc.

    Luke 24:49:- According to Gospel of Luke, Jesus says:-1 am going to send you what my father (God) has promised, but slay in the city (of Jerusalem) until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

    Explanation:-
    (a) Jesus is saying that when he (Jesus) goes, he is going to send Prophet Muhammad whom God had promised to send.
    (b) Until you have been clothed with power. Until you have received the powerful Quran.
    (c) Stay in the city of Jerusalem and continue to pay tribute to Jerusalem until you have been commanded by God to face towards Khana-e-Kaaba at Mecca. (Ref. Quran Surah Baqarah 2:142-143). “The fools among the people will say-” What has turned them from the Kiblah to which they were used to.”

    John 14:16:- Jesus says- “And I will ask the father, and he will give you another Counselor” (Prophet-Muhammad) to be with you forever.”

    Explanation:-
    (a) Jesus knew, as much as all other previous prophets, that another Messenger was to come finally. He will be the last counselor till the Day of Judgment. He will be the seal of Prophets. Surah Al-Ahzab 33:40.

    (b) In Holy Bible -New International version, (as revised in August 1983) the word used for the coming prophet Muhammad is- Counselor. Many other Bibles have used words like comforter, helper, advocate, councilor and PARACLETE etc. The original word in
    Greek Bible was PARACLETOS, which means the “Praised One” which means Ahmed. Ahmed is the heavenly name of Muhammad.

    Douay-Rheims Bible John 14:16
    ”And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever.”

    John 14:25-26:- Jesus says- “All this I (Jesus) have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

    Explanation:-
    (a) Word Holy Spirit is deliberately added later on by human authors to divert away the attention. Barnabas who remained with Jesus throughout has used the actual word which Jesus must have spoken i.e. “Ahmed”. This word is in the Gospel of Barnabas. (Ahmed is the heavenly name of Muhammad)

    (b) In my name. These words are superfluous and are added unnecessarily by human authors to mislead the readers intentionally. The addition is evident and Bible is full of such additions. Sometimes they even contradict each other.
    (c) When Muhammad will come he will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I (Jesus) have said to you.

    Ephesians 4:30:-
    And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption

    Explanation:-
    Muhammad was the seal of Prophet and the after Muhammad the chain of Prophet stopped. Muhammad also brings the total solution of salvation for mankind/ Redemption.

    John 15:26-27:- Here Jesus says “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth (i.e. Muhammad) who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me (i.e. Jesus). And you must also testify (that I was a prophet) for you have been with me from the beginning.”

    Explanation:-
    He i.e. Muhammad will testify about me i.e. about Jesus that:-
    (a) Jesus was miraculously born through a word” of ALLAH.
    (b) Jesus was a prophet’. He was neither a son of God nor one of the Three.
    (c) He did not die on the cross.
    (d) He was not buried.
    (e) Therefore his coming out of the grave does not arise.
    (f) But he was raised alive to heaven by ALLAH.
    (g) And he will come back and would die a natural death. (One birth and one death only.)

    John 16:7:- Jesus says- “But I tell you the truth. It’s for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (Ahmed) will not come to you but if I go, I will send him (Ahmed) to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.”
    Explanation:-
    (a) Mohammed will come after Jesus as the Last and the Final Messenger of God as the Seal of Prophets. Surah Al-Ahzab 33:40.

    (b) World of guilt- the world that is full of evil and guilt.
    (c) He will convict the world of guilt—in regard to sin and in regard to righteousness i.e. he will warn and enunciate right from ‘the wrong, and sin from the righteousness

    John 16:12-11:- Jesus further said- “I have much more to say to you, more than you –cant now bear. But when he, the spirit of truth (Muhammad), comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

    Explanation:- (a) Spirit of Truth that is another prophet would come. He will be the embodiment of Truth i.e. Muhammad.

    (b) When that prophet comes-he will guide you into all truth. Nothing will remain doubtful and confused in religion.
    (c) He will not speak on his own authority, unlike, “according to Matthew”, “according to Mark”, “according to Luke’” or “according to John”. His words will not be “according to Muhammad”. Every word in Quran is from ALLAH. There is nothing in it from Muhammad. Quran is the Word of ALLAH.

    (d) He will recite only that what he hears from Allah through revelations brought by Angel Gabriel. That is what Quran is- Allah’s words conveyed to Muhammad through Angel Gabriel.
    (e) All surahs of Quran commence- “In the name of ALLAH, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.”‘

    (f) He (Muhammad) will tell you what is to come i.e. about the end of world and universe, i.e. the Day of Judgment when all humans will come out from their graves to be present in front of Allah for judgment. Righteous will go to heaven and disbelievers to Hell. There will be complete Justice. No outside help will come.

    (g) He (Muhammad) will bring glory to me (Jesus) i.e. he will announce the true and right place of prophet hood to Jesus against the false allegation against him that he is god. That will neither embarrass Jesus nor would it be derogatory to God.

    https://islamcompass.com/arrival-of-muhammad-mentioned-32-times-in-bible/

    Do you really think you can see God: God is beyond imagination , there is nothing like him,
    And jesus was like a man ; like a created being; really ?
    Allah is beyond imagination; Subhanahu wa Ta’lla

  3. I recently started to read Professor Todd Lawson’s book, ‘The Crucifixion and the Qur’an’. I have only finished the introduction, but there is lot covered there. Prof. Lawson states (I have greatly reduced this):
    In the surah “. . . they did not kill him and they did not crucify him, rather, it only appeared so to them . . .” The ‘they’ are designated throughout the Qur’an as Jews. So, the Qur’an absolves the Jews of a crime long charged against them by Christians. The Qur’an only asserts that the Jews did not crucify Jesus; which is different from saying that Jesus was not crucified. The most frequent Islamic interpretation is that God rescued Jesus from his fate in a miraculous manner and that someone else was substituted for Jesus on the cross – literal Docetism. The docetic view has a long history in Christianity and it holds that what was seen crucified on the cross was just an image: a phantom, not the real Jesus or perhaps even a substitute. Here the “appearance” refers [only] to the body of Jesus which was certainly crucified as distinct from his spiritual and eternal reality . . . It was only the human element and not the divine that was crucified.”

    In Ibn ‘Arabi’s book ‘The Ringstones of Wisdom’ in the chapter of Jesus, when Jesus is seen to perform a miracle of forming a clay bird and blowing upon it and the bird begins to chirp, the people who witnessed this reported to be confused as to the identity of Jesus. To some he appears as super-luminal and to others as a different man. It might be that the special nature of Jesus being of a human mother and a spiritual father (Gabriel blowing the Spirit into Mary) creates confusion as in Jesus’s appearance – ie “. . . rather, it only appeared so to them.”
    -RahimGee

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