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Crucifixion? Part 2

Updated: Jun 19

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful


Other Arguments:


[1] Prophecies about Killing & Crucifixion:


Christians often make a case in favour of death on the cross by presenting Biblical prophecies which talk about the killing and crucifixion of Jesus a.s. One could easily refer such Christians to Matthew 16: 27, 28 and 24:34 which mention unfulfilled prophecies of Jesus. According to Nabeel Qureshi, his father had answered this Christian argument by saying that 'those verses must have been added by Christians'.  Nabeel writes that he felt his father 'was cherry-picking verses to defend his views', and other Christians might say much the same. So, we can suggest another counter-argument to overcome them. The word qatl is used in Arabic to mean a plot or attempt to kill. There may be a similar usage in other Semitic languages which is being investigated. The Hebrew word for killing (harag) may have been used in this sense in Hebrew Bible:


But Rebekah heard about Esau’s plans. So she sent for Jacob and told him, “Listen, Esau is consoling himself (by plotting) to kill you. 37


The following NT verse also lends support to a non-literal meaning of murder:

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him”38


Besides, prophecies tend to contain a large element of symbolism, and we can illustrate this from the prophecy of the ‘sending of Elijah’39 who was expected to return before the Christ, which was not fulfilled literally. I expect other examples can be found in the Bible of non-literal fulfillment of prophecies. In any case, the sign of Jonah given by Jesus a.s. himself supports the view that it was not a literal death that the prophecies mean, but a fortunate survival from a near death ordeal.


[2] Willing Sacrifice by Disciples:


Another argument Christians tend to put forward to refute the apparent death or swoon theories is that the disciples literally died for their belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus a.s., so they could not have being telling a lie about it.


However, this is a weak argument, because people are willing to die for all sorts of things, and all of the four Gospels tell us that Peter lied thrice to save himself at the time of the trial of Jesus a.s.,40,41,42,43 and that the disciples were hiding behind closed (external) doors for fear of the Jews after the event of the cross (John 20:19,26)44,45.  The Gospel of John (11:53-54) also tells us that after the (supposed) literal resurrection of Lazarus, the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus a.s., as a result of which he left Jerusalem, to stay with his disciples in the village of Ephraim 46. 


It is rather strange that someone who is believed to have resurrected a dead person and is literally ‘the resurrection and the life’ should be afraid of being put to death by a Jewish enemy prepared and sent for this purpose by the Jewish authorities. If Jesus a.s. himself wanted to save his own life, how can it be claimed that his disciples were not at all in fear of being put to death. It is also apparent from a study of the Christian New Testament that Jesus a.s. appeared only to his disciples and other believers after the event of the cross, and did not appear before a single one of his enemies, whether Jewish or Romans. Why was he afraid of being killed after he had supposedly conquered death?


Moreover, in the Book of Hebrews (9:27), it is stated: “. . . It is ordained unto all men once to die, and after that the judgement.” 


It is also stated in a passage of the Book of Revelation (Rev 1:17) which is believed to refer to Jesus a.s., that:


“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. But He placed His right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, 18 the Living One. I was dead, and behold, now I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of Death and of Hades. ”


Why didn’t Jesus a.s. appear before his enemies if he was literally resurrected and not merely metaphorically so?


Moreover, ‘resurrection’ means a ‘raising up’, or ‘rising up’ from the Greek word anastenai 75 or egerthenai 86 In the verb form it means ‘to cause to stand or rise up; to raise from sleep or from the dead’49. Hence, one can not really insist, as Christians are wont to, that it must mean a raising from literal death.


[3] Swoon theory Debunked?


When human knowledge of the signs of life and dead improved with increasing medical knowledge 36, both Christians (or those of a Christian background) in the West who had studied the Bible, as well as Muslims in the East, independently came up with the apparent death or swoon theory in the 18th and 19th centuries CE and beyond.50,51


Some Christian internet sites, books and Youtube videos claim that the swoon theory has been debunked. However, the swoon theory was first put forward by those in the west50 who had studied the Bible carefully and realised that the literal death of Jesus a.s. on the cross was not a certainty as was being assumed. A claim of resurrection can only really be made if death was certain in the first place. Nowadays, the medical world knows well of people presumed dead, with vital signs absent, who were later on seen to be alive. The name ‘Lazarus Phenomenon’ is given to cases where doctors have given up trying resuscitation and the patient wakes up from his near death condition. It might have been possible to convince some people of literal resurrection hundreds and thousands of years ago, but in the light of modern medical knowledge and awareness of such cases reported in the media, people would nowadays rightly question any claims of a literal resurrection in such cases. 


Even in ancient times, cases of resuscitations have been recorded. An example is a case mentioned by Philostratus (c. 172-250 CE), a Greek Sophist, of Apollonius of Tyana (15-100 CE), a Greek Neopythagorean philosopher. He records: “While all of Rome mourned the death of a newly-wed girl, as she was being carried in her bier, Apolloniius came along and ordered it to be put down. ‘Touching her and saying something over her indistinctly, he woke up the maiden from her seeming death; the girl uttered a sound and returned to her father’s house.’ Philostratus does however explain later that it is uncertain and impossible to tell now whether the girl was really dead, or that Apollonius may have seen a spark of life in the girl and the warmth of his touch restored her to consciousness.”52,53


The 8 or so Biblical passages about resurrection 54 are all cases in which actual death was not certain, so they should be understood as cases of revival after a coma (only a sort of resurrection which might well have appealed as a clear sign for people with limited knowledge hundreds and thousands of years ago, but not nowadays). In the case of Lazarus, Jesus talks of his illness not being until (actual) death (John 11:4)55, and that he is going to waken him from his sleep (John 11:11)56, and even if Christians make a case for literal death, there was no odour detected after the rock was removed (John 11:44)57, or it would very likely have been reported, though it was speculated before this (John 11:39)58.


[4] Sign of Jonah Questioned


Some Christians claim that Jonah himself died within the belly of the fish, just as Jesus a.s. was dead within the bowels of the earth. Let us consider the sign of Jonah in some detail:  

Shortly after the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Satan, they said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” 59 

To fully appreciate the answer that Jesus gave, we must go to the book of Jonah. In its first chapter, we read that God commanded the prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its people that He was going to destroy it for its wickedness. Jonah disobediently ran from the Lord and headed for the city of Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish where he remained for “three days and three nights”60 “After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land” 61.

Again, we read in the Gospel of Luke:


29 As the crowds were increasing, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation.62


When Christians try to refute the argument made on the basis of the meaning of the sign of Jonah, some claim and try to suggest that Jonah also died in the fish and was resurrected. Firstly, one can refer to many Christian websites which give good refutations of such an interpretation.63 


It can also be argued that If Jonah had actually died and resurrected, then what was the need for a fish to swallow (and save) Jonah in the first place? Couldn’t God resurrect and cause the sea to wash ashore a drowned person?


Thus the survival of Jonah a.s. in the fish being apparent from both the Qur’an and Bible, it can be pointed out that Jonah a.s. would also have been presumed dead by those in the boat from which he was thrown into the rough sea, as they would not have had any knowledge of the possibility of his survival in the belly of a fish. Likewise, the medical knowledge of the people being poor 2000 years ago, they too presumed him dead, but still doubted it.


The prophetic dreams mentioned both in the Holy Qur’an 64 as well as the Holy Bible illustrate that repeating information in a separate dream on the same subject is to add detail to the information previously mentioned. Joseph’s dreams 65, and the dreams of the cupbearer and baker 66, and of the King of Egypt 67 all appear to demonstrate the validity of this point. Likewise, Jesus a.s. mentioned two prophecies indicating three days:

On account of this, the Jews demanded, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?” 19 Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” 20 “This temple took forty-six years to build,” the Jews replied, “and You are going to raise it up in three days?”68


The literalist Jews misunderstood this prophecy, just as they misunderstood the ‘Sign of Jonah’. It appears however that Joseph of Arimathea and/or Nicodemus (both secret disciples of Jesus a.s.), understood the prophecies to indicate a miraculous survival from an apparently certain death, as in the case of Jonah a.s. In the case of Jonah a.s., death in a stormy sea appeared certain to those who threw him out of the boat, for Joseph of Arimathea (who became like the big fish that was inspired, with his tomb becoming like the belly of the fish) boldly came forward to ask for the body of Jesus a.s. from Pilate, whilst most, if not all, of the other disciples fled for fear of their lives. This incident appears to be somewhat comparable to the case of AbuBakr r.a. who began weeping when the Holy Prophet s.a. gave a hint about his approaching demise, as he was the only one to properly understand the implications of it.


Another similarity between what happened to Jonah a.s. and Jesus a.s. can be seen in the circumstances which led to their being cast to their death. Let us consider the relevant verses:  


But one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”69


13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried to the Lord, “We beseech thee, O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood; for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.” 15 So they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. 17 [a] And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.70


So, in both cases, it became an issue of saving many people by sacrificing an innocent person. We can see that the attempt of Christians to limit the prophecy to refer to a similarity with regards to the three days and nothing else appears to be against the stated facts. There is much more similarity than that!


[5] A Vast Quantity of Aloes & Myrrh!


Another indication that they considered Jesus a.s. to be alive at the time is the surplus amount of healing ointments they brought with them: “And there came also Nicodemus, who at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.”71


Let’s see what various Bible commentaries have to say about this:


This was a vast quantity.72 The purpose of this large quantity was probably to cover the Body entirely.73


This mixture of myrrh and aloes together, and which as a very large quantity, and exceeding costly, was not designed the embalming of his body, and preserving it from putrefaction; for he was not embalmed, though myrrh and cassia and other odours were used in embalming; but for perfuming it, and in honour and respect unto him:


A Jew (b) (Jacob Aben Amram, porta veritatis No. 1040. apud Kidder, Demonstration of the Messiah, part 3. p. 65, 66. Ed. fol) objects to this relation of the evangelist as unworthy of belief: he affirms, that this was enough for two hundred dead bodies, and that it could not be carried with less than the strength of a mule, and therefore not by Nicodemus. … In answer to which, it is observed by Bishop Kidder (c), that we having nothing but the Jew’s own word for it, that this was enough for two hundred bodies74


An immense quantity, betokening the greatness of their love75


Let us elaborate further on the suggestion that it was due to ‘the greatness of their love’. It is most likely that they brought such a large quantity because of their concern and anxiety for him. They wanted to ensure his wounds were speedily and properly healed by the ointments. Apparently not having expertise in medical matters, they seem to have over-estimated the quantity actually needed for the purpose of healing the wounds. This would not have been the case if they merely wanted to embalm a corpse. Let the wise ponder over this. The dispute between a Jew and Christian over whether it would have been enough for 200 dead bodies or not, may be resolved by noting that we don’t consider the gospels to be inerrant or 100% accurate and totally reliable; the weight appears to have been estimated rather than accurately measured.


(6) Brutal Scourging & Hematidrosis:


Zugibe admits that Pilate was surprised76 due to the short time Jesus a.s. was on the cross, but goes on to state that death was “primarily from the extent of brutal scourging”77 This is a strange claim, for Pilate himself ordered the scourging and would have known the extent of it, so why would he have been so surprised at the apparent death of Jesus a.s.76? Three of the four gospels only make a passing reference to the scourging78,79,80, and one of them merely state that Jesus a.s. was ‘disciplined’, which suggests mildness rather than severity. It would be strange if the scourging was abnormally brutal, that the Gospels would merely make a brief reference to it in passing. There is no evidence of brutal scourging even from a study of the shroud of Turin, which is said by many to be the linen cloth mentioned in the Gospels 81.


This is not the only exaggeration made by Christian enthusiasts who seek to insist on death. Zugibe82 makes a big issue of hematidrosis83 based on (Luke 22:44), yet also states that Luke, the only gospel author to report it, was a physician. However, the wording employed by Luke is of a likeness between the perspiration and drops of blood, rather than describing a medical condition of perspiring blood. One can also question why there is no corroborative evidence of hematidrosis, such as blood stained clothing, and why there was no hematidrosis when he was being nailed to the cross, which one would expect to have been far more stressful an occasion than when praying in the Garden of Olives. Such Christian exaggerations are commonplace.


(7) Reliability of Historical Claims:


On the Christian claim that Jesus’s a.s. death on the cross at the hands of Romans is a well-established 'historical fact', one can of course argue whether Christians accept whatever is stated by historians as 100% accurate, and not subject to human limitations such as incomplete knowledge, prejudice, hiding the truth, and deliberate lies etc. The majority of Muslims question the reliability of Muslim Ahadith and Sira literature, and some non-Muslim polemicists reject the Muslim version of historical events entirely. So, why these double standards?


Conclusion:


After clarifying the correct interpretation of the verse (4:158), we saw that the Christian claim of indisputable death on the cross is untenable in the light of modern medical knowledge as well as a careful study of the events recorded in the Bible. In those times, medical knowledge of the signs of life and death was insufficient in order to confirm death in a case where death was not obvious. We also saw that Christians make exaggerated claims concerning hematidrosis and brutal scourging. 


The Biblical record examined is studied in the light of modern medical knowledge confirms that the verse of the Qur’an (4:157) is completely accurate in what it states, and this establishes the truth of the claim that the Holy Qur’an is pure divine revelation from the All-Knowing and All-Seeing God.


[19:76] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance. [20:47] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.


Notes/References:


37. [Genesis 27:42]

38. [1 John 3:14]

39.  [Malachi 4:5] “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.”

40. [Mark 14:66-71]

41. [Matthew 26:69-74]

42. [Luke 22:55-60]

43. John 18:25-27

44. [John 20:19] On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

45. [John 20:26]  Eight days later, His disciples were once again inside with the doors locked, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."

46. (John 11:53-54) So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus' death. Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. 47. [Mark 8:31]

48. [Matthew 16:21]; [Luke 9:22]

49. Strong’s Concordance

50. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/2323/the-swoon-theories/ 51. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/1440/the-changing-views-of-the-crucifixion/

52. A Muslims Commentary of the Bible, Syed Ahmad, (2013), p. 264

53. Fredrick C. Conybeare, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Vol 1, (1912), p. 456-459 54. [IKings 17:17-24]; [IIKings 4:20-37]; [Luke 7:11-16]; [Mark 5:35-43]; [Acts 9:36-41]; [Acts 20:7-12]

55. [John 11:4] But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.”

56. [John 11:11] Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, “Our friend Laz′arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.”

57. [John 11:44] The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

58. [John 11:39] Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 59. [Matthew 12:38–41]

60. Jonah 1:15–17].

61. [Jonah 2:10]

62. [Luke 11:29,30] 63. https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/31599/did-jonah-die-and-rise-from-the-dead

64. [Qur’an, Sura 12]

65. [Genesis 37]

66. [Genesis 40]

67. [Genesis 41]

68. [John 2:18-20]

69. [John 11:49]

70. [Jonah 1]

71. [John 19:39]

72. Pulpit Commentary

73. Cambridge Bible for Schools & Colleges

74. Gill’s exposition of the Entire Bible

75. Jamieson Fausset Brown Bible Commentary

76. [Mark 15:44]

77. Zugibe, Fredrick ‘The Crucifixion of Jesus; A Forensic Enquiry’, page 136

78. [Mark 15:15]

79. [Matthew 27:26]

80. [John 19:1]

81. [Matthew 27:59]; [Mark. 15:46; 23:53]; [John 19:40]

82. Zugibe, Fredrick ‘The Crucifixion of Jesus; A Forensic Enquiry’, p. 106

83. Hematidrosis, which is also called ‘blood sweat’, is a very rare condition in which a human sweats blood.

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