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WAS CHRIST REALLY CRUCIFIED?

A Continuing Study by Faris al-Qayrawani

Introduction

t is not the purpose of this study to kindle any flame of rancour or anger between Christians and Muslims in a world already polluted with fury, hatred, segregation, prejudice, racial conflict, violence and fanaticism. Our main intention is to examine a complicated issue: the crucifixion of Christ. We believe that this event is the central issue of dispute between the two faiths. In the light of the historical, religious and other logical data available to us, we will endeavour to focus objectively on the Biblical record to expose the divine truth as revealed to us in the Gospels. We would also like to help remove the cloud of doubt and rejection that has shrouded the minds of our friends, the Muslims. We will appeal primarily to reason, but we hope also to provide an effective tool that will nurture and deepen the faith and hope of Christian believers.

No doubt, the cross is the core of the Christian faith. The Bible clearly indicates that the eternal destiny of man depends totally on the atoning death of Christ on the cross.

This is what Christianity teaches. - This is what Christians believe.

Islam rejects the whole concept of the cross. Muslims allege that it is against reason to claim that God, the Omnipotent, would not forgive man's sins without the cross. To say so is to limit God's power. When repentance, they say, is combined with God's mercy and forgiveness, it becomes sufficient to award the penitent all the pleasures of the paradise promised in the Qu'ran.

The contrast between the two perspectives is similar to the contrast between East and West. A Christian who believes in Christ as the Son of God, and in His atoning death, finds the sure guarantee of eternal life in the cross. God has embodied His love, grace, mercy and justice on the cross. The source of this certainty is Christ's promises. Jesus said, "Whosoever believeth in me... has everlasting life." (John 3:16, NKJ) A Christian can rest well-assured that he has indeed been granted eternal life on the basis of Jesus' promises. Such phrases as "if God wills" or "that depends on God's mercy" cannot be part of that assurance. These phrases fail to provide any sense of security in the life of any believer, because he would lack the certainty he needs for a fruitful, solid faith. This does not mean that a person can indulge in sin believing that the death of Christ has secured for him the pardon of his transgressions in advance. Anyone who seeks everlasting life has to live a Christ-like life to meet the moral demands of the Christian faith. A person whose life does not attest to the new creation in him may still be under the condemnation of God's wrath.

Salvation in Islam is based on a continuous effort to obtain God's favour, which would be bestowed in the form of blessings, joys, and the pleasures of paradise, if He wills. This requires constant exertion in the hope of pleasing God. A Muslim can never be sure that he really has pleased God and secured His approval.

Good deeds in Islam are an exigency for obtaining God's reward, while good works in Christianity are the fruit of love and faith. To Christians, good works are not a means of earning some present or future reward. Everlasting life has already been guaranteed by the merit of the redemptive act of Christ on the cross. It embraces whoever believes in Him as Lord, Redeemer and Saviour. This is an inescapable condition. When this condition of faith is met, Christian life bears fruit - that is, good works - naturally. A rose fills the air with its scent naturally.. It does not strive to do so. It is its nature to produce sweet aroma; but the entire bush has to grow in order to continue to yield more beautiful roses. Likewise it is the Christian nature to bear good fruit as the natural expression of the new life of the true Christian, and not to obtain some reward or to secure everlasting life (which already has been secured through the blood of Jesus Christ).

In this study we will employ all the available historical documents and recognized references to establish the reality of the crucifixion as an historical event that took place almost 2,000 years ago, and the fact that the crucified one was none other than Jesus Christ Himself. We believe that all other claims are invalid and contradict the historical evidence.

It is our fervent desire that our Muslim friends would read this book with an open mind, heart and spirit, since the motive behind the writing is to make known the truth of the cross as an historical and spiritual event. We do not ask them to agree with us, but rather, we hope to stimulate in them the interest to investigate the veracity or fallacy of Christian belief. Had the founder of Islam been resigned to accept the religion of his ancestors without questioning its authenticity he would have been content to continue worshiping the idols of Mecca. Therefore, we invite our Muslim friends to scrutinize this brief study thoroughly before they resolve to deny or to accept the authenticity of the cross.

Chapter One

Reasons for the Crucifixion

The redemptive act of Jesus Christ on the cross for the salvation of the human race is an essential tenet of the Christian faith. It was neither planned nor implemented by people, but has been carried out by God Himself. Therefore man cannot claim any credit for it.

Since the inception of Islam in the seventh century A.D., the death of Christ on the cross and His resurrection have been disputed issues between Muslims and Christians. Muslims deny that Jesus was crucified, or even that He died a natural death (although some of their scholars are inclined to say that Jesus suffered a natural death and then God raised Him up to heaven). On the other hand, Christians maintain that Jesus was crucified for the salvation of mankind. Both sides quote their own holy scripture to prove their point of view, implying their disbelief of the other's scripture.

Muslim denial of the crucifixion of Christ aims at negating the whole concept of atonement, or even the need for a saviour. To them salvation could be achieved without shedding blood, that is, without the atoning act that took its final and eternal form on the cross in the person of Christ. In one reference to the crucifixion, the Bible says: "...without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22, NKJ)

This is the very thing all Muslims strongly denounce. Muslims believe that both repentance and good deeds are sufficient to save people from their iniquities because forgiveness always depends on God's mercy and his will.(1) Muslims also do not believe that there is a need for an intercessor between man and God. They claim that man is born innocent. He deviates from the straight path, not because of his inherited fallen nature, but because of his weakness and deficiency. I would like to point out a brief study of The Fallen Nature of Man in Islam and Christianity,(2) in which the author convincingly refutes these claims, citing both Islamic and Christian sources.

The reasons Christians firmly believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and was resurrected on the third day are presented briefly within the context of this study.

Logical Reasons for the Crucifixion

In their absolute denial of the death of Christ, Muslims rely on one verse in the Quran, Sura al-Nisa 4:156-157:

". . .and for their saying (in boast), 'We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God' - yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them. Those who are at variance concerning him surely are in doubt regarding him; they have no knowledge of him, except the following of surmise; and they slew him not of a certainty - no indeed; God raised him up to Him; God is All-mighty, All-wise."

On the basis of this solitary verse which denies the death of Christ (though this verse is subject to various contradictory interpretations), Muslims assert that the crucifixion of Jesus did not take place and that the story of Christ's death and resurrection is the innovation of the early Christians. Such a charge prompts us to call attention to the following:

Judge for Yourself

First, assume that you are a judge and a case similar to the case of Christ's crucifixion is presented to you. How would you react to such a case when it is corroborated by various authentic historical documents and actual texts of the trial? What would you say if these documents included dialogue that took place between Christ and Pilate, the Roman governor; details of the debate between Jesus and the Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin; the testimonies of the eye witnesses; the list of names of those who were present during the trial; and an account of the events that occurred before, during and after the crucifixion? How would you respond to someone who comes along after six centuries and by one uncorroborated statement claims that the death of Jesus has never happened and all that is recorded in the Gospel accounts about this story is the product of the imaginations of the early church fathers? Would you as a just judge accept his testimony against all the other proven facts? Some may claim that the above verse was revealed to Muhammad by God and that God does not lie. If this is so, then it is the claimants duty to prove conclusively that it is inspired by God.

We are here confronted by two facts. First, we have two books, the Quran and the Bible, and each one of them is regarded by its followers as a revelation from God. Apparently this cannot be true because they contradict each other in some of their most basic doctrines. This being the case, one of them must have come from a source other than God. It is of no avail to charge that the People of the Book, as Islam calls the Jews and the Christians, have perverted the Bible because all objective studies - not studies based on speculation or imagination - have proven the authenticity of the Bible as we currently have it.

The second fact is that historical documents corroborate the Gospel text, while no historical evidence is available to attest to the veracity of the Quranic text concerning the crucifixion of Jesus. When history confirms the Biblical text but not the Quranic text, then the advantage is with the Bible and not with the Quran.

In addition, Christians believe that their Book is inspired by God. Thus, every text is divinely revealed. When the text is supported by dozens of prophecies which have been fulfilled literally in the person of Christ, and Christ Himself quoted them and applied them to his person, then the Christian claim has the greater weight. It becomes incumbent on the Muslim to refute and disprove the authenticity of these historical, archaeological and Biblical facts. To do so he has to present stronger and more conclusive proof to outweigh the Christian evidence.

Die for a Lie?

Second, if the death of Christ was just an ancient myth, would all Jesus' disciples, with the exception of John, have sacrificed their lives for it? The Quran itself testifies to the faithfulness, goodness and devoutness of the disciples, and calls them examples to be followed. Such people would not fabricate a tale about their Master. A man may sacrifice his life for a noble end or for a cause in which he believes, but no one would offer his life knowingly for a lie or a myth. It is especially difficult to believe that Godfearing men like the disciples would die to promote a lie.

Eye-witnesses

Third, from Christ's resurrection and up to the last moment of their lives, the disciples continued to preach the Gospel of salvation. Most often, their preaching during the first period of their ministry was among the Jewish circles who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus and knew the story of his resurrection. Despite that, not a single Jew or any of their religious leaders who conspired against Christ accused them of lying. Ten days after the Ascension of Christ the apostle Peter confronted a large crowd of Jews in Jerusalem and told them bluntly:

"Him, being delivered by the predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death;" (Acts 2:23, NKJ)

On a similar occasion Peter declared to the Jews:

"But you denied the Holy One and the Just.....killed the Prince of Life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses." (Acts 3:14-15, NKJ)

The New Testament is crowded with similar testimonies that bear witness to the death of Christ and His crucifixion at the hand of the Jews contemporary with the disciples. Had these charges been invalid, the Jews would have denied them and the disciples would not have sacrificed their lives for a lie or a myth.(3)

Logical Evidence

Fourth, there is also a quantity of other logical evidence that is difficult to ignore. One of the most compelling historical accounts is the human drama whose stages were the courts of the Sanhedrin, the praetorium of Pilate and the palace of Herod along with the horrifying hill that is known in history as Golgotha. In his book Who Moved The Stone? the British author Frank Morrison examined the story of the crucifixion of Christ and his resurrection with the critical mind of a skilled, experienced lawyer who was determined to refute the Christian allegations.(4)The outcome of his intensive study was unexpected and took Morrison by surprise. Instead of writing a refutation against the myth of the cross as he intended to do, he produced a document that slapped the face of the sceptic.

The documents available to us indicate that Jesus' trial lasted all night and part of the next day. It was not a secret trial, but a trial attended by the general public, the Jewish leaders and the members of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish authority in Jesus' time. This fact creates an unresolved dilemma for the Muslims who allege that the crucified one was not really Jesus but another person, perhaps Judas Iscariot. This claim is erroneous, and lacks historical proof. It does not fit into the nature of the events. Could not the crucified substitute complain loudly and vigorously during his public trial that he was not Jesus? Actually the response of the defendant when He declared that He was the Son of God was sufficient to sentence Him to death. Is it reasonable that a substitute who was mistakenly arrested would ascribe to himself so grave a claim under such circumstances? All the historical documents at our disposal do not record any remonstrance, or semi-remonstrance expressed by the Shabih (the one who allegedly resembled Christ). I do not believe that Judas Iscariot - if he was the crucified one as Muslims claim would not have seized such a golden opportunity to save himself from an atrocious death.

On the other hand, the Gospel records for us a sublime attitude that could not emanate from any person other than Christ. In His last hours while He was still nailed to the cross He forgave His killers and enemies with a heart full of love. This act cannot originate from the heart of a person like Judas Iscariot who betrayed his Lord and delivered Him to His enemies.

Furthermore, we should not ignore the role of Mary, Jesus' mother, and the rest of the women who accompanied her to the cross along with the beloved disciple, John. They were eye-witnesses to the crucifixion. Those devout, faithful followers of Christ attest to His actual death and crucifixion. Even more, John tells us that Jesus Christ, in spite of His excruciating pain, turned His face towards His mother and told her, "Woman, behold your son." Then He turned His face to His faithful disciple and said, "Behold, your mother!" (John 19:25-27, NKJ). Was not Mary able to distinguish between her son's voice and the voice of an impostor, the Shabih?

There is also another important issue that Muslim commentators failed to resolve: the case of Jesus' body. Muslims claim that the Shabih resembled Jesus in his face only. His body was not subject to any change. They said, "The face is the face of Jesus, but the body is not His [body]."They made this statement in the context of their interpretation of Sura al-Nisa 4:157:(5)

"Those who are at variance concerning him surely are in doubt regarding him; they have no knowledge of him, except the following of surmise;"

If this statement is true, how then did Mary fail to recognize the difference between the body of her son and the body of the Shabih? Moreover we have other tangible evidence that is hard for any objective researcher to overlook. In the context of the crucifixion story it is stated that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret believer in Jesus, were able to obtain official permission from the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to lay Jesus in a tomb that Joseph had prepared for himself. If the crucified one was the Shabih and not Jesus, how did these two men fail to distinguish between Jesus' body and the body of an impostor? Did Judas have, for instance, the same height, weight and skin colour of Jesus? Did he have the same hair and other visible characteristics of his holy Master? Actually Joseph's act was a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah about Jesus: "his grave was assigned with wicked men, yet he was with a rich man in his death" (Isaiah 53:9).

Muslim scholars also disagreed on the identity of the Shabih. Muslim narrators have related many imaginary stories to us, and they have been quoted by many Muslims expositors without any inquiry into their validity. These are not based on any historical document, archaeological proof or authentic text. No Muslim was able to provide any concrete evidence to prove the veracity of any of these fantasies concerning the Shabih. In his booklet The Cross in The Gospel and The Quran, Iskander Jadeed was able to collect most of these stories from their original sources.(6)They contradict each other in details such as names, the order of events and occasions. That is not surprising since they are based on sources fabricated by the narrators' imagination as they attempt to comment on an inexplicable verse or to prove a case incongruous with the Gospel's account at the expense of the truth.

The historical resources inform us that the myth of the resemblance as indicated in the Quran is not a novelty. During the first six centuries and before the inception of Islam, this false teaching was widespread among Christian heretics. Basilides, the Gnostic, claimed that Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for Christ when He became weary, consented to be crucified in His stead, thus God cast on him the likeness of Christ and he was crucified.

The Docetists said that Jesus was not crucified at all but that it seemed or appeared so to the Jews. Actually the word docetic is derived from a Greek verb that means "to seem" or "to appear". It sums up their general doctrine on the crucifixion.

Throughout the course of church history the heresy of the Shabih has never disappeared. From time to time it reappeared among the Christian communities in the East, preached by scattered groups of heretics. In the year A.D. 185 a heretic sect of the descendant of the priests of Thebes who embraced Christianity claimed that "God forbids that Christ should be crucified. He was safely lifted up to heaven." Also in the year A.D. 370 a hermetic Gnostic sect that denied the crucifixion of Jesus taught that He "was not crucified but it seemed so to the spectators who crucified Him." Again, in the year A.D. 520 Severus, bishop of Syria, fled to Alexandria where he encountered a group of philosophers teaching that Jesus Christ was not crucified but that it only appeared so to the people who nailed Him on the cross. In A.D. 560 the monk Theodor denied Christ's human nature and thus denied His crucifixion. About A.D. 610 Bishop John, son of the governor of Cyprus, began to proclaim that Christ was not crucified but that it only seemed so to the spectators who crucified Him.(7)

Among those who preached the theory of the Shabih is the Persian self-proclaimed prophet Mani (A.D. 276). He said that Jesus was the son of a widow, and the one who was crucified was the son of the widow of Nain whom Jesus raised from the dead. In another Manichaean tradition we read that Satan was the one who sought to crucify Jesus but he failed and was crucified in His place.

It is obvious from this brief historical summary that Islam has adopted the teachings of the Shabih and the denial of Jesus' crucifixion from the Christian heresies. We believe that these heresies were widespread among the Gnostic sects in the Arabian Peninsula during the era of Muhammad.(8) History books and bibliographies inform us that the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 380) commissioned Bishop Gregory of Nyssa "to visit churches in Arabia and Jerusalem where disturbances had broken out and schism threatened."(9) These sects did not construct their beliefs on historical evidence or official documents but followed their own conceptions and imaginations and focused primarily on the nature of Christ's human body.

God's Treachery

Fifth, if we assume, for the sake of argument only, that the story of the Shabih is true, then we would be attributing perfidy and trickery to God. Accordingly the disciples who preached fervently about Christ's crucifixion and resurrection would have been, in fact, preaching about the death and the resurrection of the Shabih. That would mean that the church, which followed the footsteps of the disciples, would have also been deluded for over six centuries-until the inception of Islam. In this case, who would be blamed? Who would have been the source of this perfidy? Why would the almighty God not reveal the truth to the disciples of His prophet and messenger but instead keep them in complete darkness? Why would God allow the church to believe in such a grave lie for six centuries? Who would be responsible for the millions of souls who went astray and believed in a lie? It would seem that God was in the centre of this confusion. He would be the one who created the heresy of the crucifixion and made everyone believe that Jesus was the one who was crucified. In this case God would not be better than the gods of Greek mythology who enjoyed deceiving each other and their own worshipers as well. But we know that we cannot attribute any of these detestable characteristics to God. He is a holy God who will never contradict His holy divine nature and act fraudulently.

The Resurrection: the Power of the Church

Lastly, the resurrection has become the focal point of the Christian faith. The resurrection was not an ordinary event that left no mark on the history of the church and its development. On the contrary, the resurrection is the secret of the constant power of the church and its growth. If the crucifixion is the essence of salvation, the resurrection is the secret of the church's triumph and victory. The crucifixion without the resurrection is insignificant; the resurrection without the crucifixion is meaningless.

But the resurrection also attests to the reality of Christ's death. After His resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples and hundreds of His loyal followers assuring them that He was indeed crucified and then raised from the dead. For the last 40 days of His earthly life, He continued to explain to them the meaning of that spiritual and historical event and its impact on humanity. Maybe the most remarkable incident we can cite in this respect is the reaction of the apostle Thomas, who was famous for his realistic approach and suspicious mind. He refused to believe what other disciples told him about the appearance of Jesus. It seems that he thought that the disciples who were mourning the death of their Master had lost their minds. Therefore he challenged them saying:

"...Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." (John 20:25, NKJ)

Eight days later the disciples were together again. Though the doors were shut for the fear of the Jews, Jesus appeared to them and stood in their midst. After greeting them, he said to Thomas:

"Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." (John 20:27, NKJ)

This passage reveals that the incident of Jesus' crucifixion has been subjected to a very careful scrutiny and investigation even by the most loyal friends of Christ, His disciples. It is not acceptable, therefore, to disregard the Biblical text and claim without any solid evidence that the story of the crucifixion of Christ is the invention of the early Christians. Needless to say, the historical credentials are in favour of the Gospel's account.

Biblical Reasons for the Crucifixion

As Christians it is incumbent on us to refer to our holy book as the main source of our belief. Both the historical and archaeological evidence strongly supports the Biblical claims. These provide us with substantial facts that we need to present to a sceptic or a Muslim who does not accept our Biblical record alone. Let us also examine some of the Biblical references pertaining to our theme.

Atonement

First, the concept of atonement has never been a Christian novelty. It has been an essential part of religious practices even among the heathens. According to the Old Testament, these practices were primarily divinely ordained rites enacted by God after the fall of Adam and Eve. As they confessed their sins and realized that they violated God's law, God took an animal, skinned it and made garments for Adam and Eve to clothe them (Genesis 3:20). Linguistically, the word atonement means "to cover or to hide". Thus, according to Scripture the entire concept of atonement began with God as the result of man's failure to live up to God's standard. Evidently this ordinance persisted in religious rituals and worship. Abel and Cain both offered their sacrifices to God, but God accepted Abel's sacrifice and rejected Cain's because Cain's sacrifice was based not on blood but on his own deed. Likewise, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all offered animal sacrifices as God ordained. Later, during the time of Moses, these ceremonial sacrifices became a written law. Biblical scholars affirmed that those sacrifices were ritual symbols to the great and final sacrifice, that is, the crucifixion of Christ.(10) Pagan nations took these liturgies from the devout men of God and offered them to their idols. They distorted their purpose, though basically they continued to be a symbol for expiation.

Atonement in Islam is founded on good deeds. Charity and good work obliterate offences. Also, the performing of the five pillars, fighting for the cause of Allah and the reciting of the Quranic chapters purchase the forgiveness of sins.(11)

But there is another theme in Islam that is worth examining before we conclude this part of our study: the theme of ransom. Maybe the most outstanding reference to this subject is found in Sura al-Saffat 37:107, in the context of the story of Abraham and his son who consented to be offered as a sacrifice:

"And we ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice."

AI-Baydawi illustrates this verse by saying:

"that is, by what is sacrificed instead of him, thus the act by that is fulfilled."(12)

In his exposition of this verse, al-Razi cites a tradition:

"The Suddi said: 'Abraham was called out, he looked around and all of a sudden he saw a ram intermixed with white and black, descending from the mountain. He got up from beside him (his son), took the (ram), slaughtered it and freed his son. He said: "My son, today you were given to me as a gift.".. .it was said that the (ram) was called momentous for its great status since God.. .accepted it as a ransom for Abraham's Son.'(13)

How was the son given to Abraham as a gift? That black and white ram was slain as a ransom for Abraham's son. It was the substitute. Thus he was given a new life. Also the ram was great, firstly, because God was the one who prepared it, and secondly, because it was a symbol for the greatest and the final sacrifice, that is, Christ the Redeemer of all humanity. He is the one about whom John the Baptist said: "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29, NKJ)

In his book Ihya of Ulum al-Din, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, the greatest Islamic theologian who ever lived, states:

"But be informed that slaughtering the sacrifice is (a means) to draw nearer to God....by way of obedience. Therefore perform the sacrifice and hope for God to liberate from hell by each part of it, a part of you. For as thus came the promise: The bigger the sacrifice is and the more numerous its parts are, the more fully your redemption from hell is."(14)

In this same book al-Ghazali urges Muslims to seek God's nearness by sacrificing an animal. He says:

"Seek nearness of God by sacrificing an animal. Try to sacrifice an animal which is strong and stout....the Prophet said: Nothing is dearer to God on the Day of Sacrifice out of the actions of men than the sacrifice of an animal. It will come on the resurrection day with its hoofs and horns and its blood falls in a place near to God before it falls on the ground. So purify your soul by sacrifice. There is in Hadith (Prophet's Tradition): There is reward for every hair of the sacrificed animal and for every drop of blood, and it will be weighed near God. So give good news. The prophet said: Sacrifice a good animal, as it will be your carrier on the Resurrection Day."(15)

Prophecies

Second, the Old Testament is full of prophecies concerning Jesus' death and resurrection. It is enough to have a general look at the Book of Isaiah to realize that Old Testament prophets were aware of this great event and looked forward to it. Since we do not have sufficient room to point to the ample references predicting Christ's death, agony and resurrection, I would like to refer the reader to some helpful sources pertaining to this theme.(16)

Jesus' Testimony

Third, Christ Himself talked about His death and His resurrection. The Gospel accounts are crowded with verses where Jesus predicted His crucifixion and suffering. In this case when He talked about His death He was either a liar, insane and confused, or an honest person who declared the truth. Indeed, neither Christ's mortal enemies nor any Muslim dared or would dare to accuse Him of lying or insanity. It remains for us to say that Jesus was truthful in all that He preached and ascribed to Himself. It is futile here to claim that all the information recorded in the Gospel about Jesus' death is the invention of the disciples or the fathers of the early church. The integrity and honesty of Christ's disciples have never been questioned or doubted. John the Evangelist ascertains in his first Epistle 1:1-2, NKJ:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life; (the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life, which was with the father and was manifested to us.)"

The rest of the disciples reiterated the same testimony, especially the apostle Peter. All of them are honest eyewitnesses.(17) But the greatest testimony we cite in the context of this study is Christ's testimony about Himself. Jesus quoted the prophecies of the Old Testament and applied them to Himself. He also expounded them in lucid language to dispel any doubt that may cloud the minds of His audience. He was accustomed to say, "That the scripture may be fulfilled," or "As it is written," or something similar.(18) As He quoted Old Testament prophecies, He would explain to the disciples, along with the multitudes who gathered together to hear Him, how these prophecies were fulfilled in Him. For instance, in one speech to His disciples He said:

"These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things concerning me must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled....Then He said to them, 'Thus it is written and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.'" (Luke 24: 44-46, NKJ)

The above verses include two important facts. First, the prophecies in the entire Old Testament refer to Jesus and not to any other prophet. When Jesus pointed to the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, He covered the whole Old Testament with the exception of the historical books. He documented all His claims by quoting these familiar prophecies and explained them to the astonished disciples. It is very interesting to see how Muslims selected some of these prophecies which Christ ascribed to Himself to prove to the Jews that he was the Messiah, and applied them to Muhammad. In the opinion of the author, based on the interpretations of Jesus and the disciples, the Islamic claims are invalid and deceptive.

Second, Jesus Himself made it clear to the disciples that He had to be crucified and die, and then be raised from the tomb on the third day. Jesus here attests to His crucifixion and defies any other claim that denies or rejects this historical fact. It is very hard for the sceptic to look Jesus in the eye and say to Him, "You are a liar."


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Endnotes


1. Abu Ameenah, Bilal Philips. Salvation Through Repentance (Riyadh:Tawheed Publications, 1990).

2. Shahid, Samuel. The Fallen Nature of Man in Islam and Christianity (Colorado Springs: al-Nur Publications, 1991).

3. Jadeed, Iskander. The Cross in the Gospel and the Quran (Rikon: The Good Way, n.d), pp.26-31.

4. Morrison, Frank. Who Moved the Stone? (London: Faber and Faber, 1978).

5. aI-Fakhr al-Razi. al-Tafsir al-Kabir (Beirut: Dar al-Fir, 1981), vol.11, p.102. Also refer to the commentaries of al-Jalalayn and al-Baydawi concerning the interpretation of Sura al-Nisa 4:157.

6. The Cross in the Gospel and the Quran, pp.12-14.

7. Siman, Awad. Qadiyat al-Ghufran fi al-Masihiyat (Egypt: al-Nahda al-Jadida, 1951), pp.91-92. Awad Siman quoted his information from al-Manara al-Tarikhiya fi al-Masihiyat wa al-Wathaniya, by Iskander Sayfi, pp.103, 153,189,197, 201. Another invaluable reference is Yamauchi, Edwin, "The Crucifixion and Docetic Christology," Concordia Theological Quarterly46 (1986): 1-20.

8. The Cross in the Gospel and the Quran, pp. 10-1 1.

9. Moyer, Elgin S. Who was Who in Church History (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p.15.

10. Siman, Awad. Luzum kaffarat al-Masih and Kayfa Nantafiu bi Kaffarat al-Masih (both: Stuttgart: Nida al-Raja, n.d.).

11. Jadeed, Iskander. Sin and Atonement in Islam and Christianity (Rikon: The Good Way, n.d.), pp.33-41.

12. al-Baydawi, Nasir al-Din. Anwar of al-Tanzil wa Asrar of al-Tawil (Beirut: Dar al-Jil, n.d.), p.595.

13. al-Tafsir al-Kabir, vol.26, p.158.

14. al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. Ihya of Ulum al-Din, trans Maulana FazIul Karim (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, n.d.), vol.1, p.243.

15. Ibid., vol.1, pp.250-251.

16. Mikhail, Labib. The Issue of the Cross, 1st ed. (Cairo: n.p., 1956), pp. 59-95 (in Arabic). I believe that this is one of the best books on this subject written in Arabic. Also The Cross in the Gospel and the Quran, pp.20-26. Another important book in English is McDowell, Josh.Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Arrowhead Springs: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1978), especially chapter 9.

17. The Cross in the Gospel and the Quran, pp.21-22.

18. Matthew 2:5; 4:4,7,10; 21:13; 26:24. Mark 7:6; 12:10. Luke 19:49; 24:44. John 2:17,22; 6:31; 7:38,42; 10:34; 13:18, and 19:24.