Periodically, my Muslim friends will advocate their position that Jesus was not crucified on a cross in Palestine two millennia ago (see here, here and here). They posit that someone may have been crucified, but it had to have been someone else. As further evidence, they say that if Jesus was crucified on a “tree” he would have been cursed by Allah, based on Deuteronomy 21. This is all based on one passage from the Quran…
١٥٧ وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَٰكِنْ شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِنْهُ ۚ مَا لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلَّا اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ ۚ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا
157 And for their saying, “We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah.” In fact, they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them as if they did. Indeed, those who differ about him are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it, except the following of assumptions. Certainly, they did not kill him.
١٥٨ بَلْ رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا
158 Rather, Allah raised him up to Himself. Allah is Mighty and Wise.Quran 4:157-158 ITANI
The “proof” they present from the Bible to support this comes from a messianic prophecy found in Psalm 91:
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge —
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;Psalm 91:9-16 ESV
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
Psalm 91 appears to be clearly accepted by the Gospel writers as applicable to Messiah Jesus. How are we to interpret it in light of the crucifixion unanimously recounted by the four Gospel accounts?
The argument against using Psalm 91 to “prove” that Jesus was never crucified comes from many directions. First, the overwhelming majority of historians, regardless of faith, concur that the death of Jesus by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as about as certain as historical events get. It is independently attested by many period and contemporary historians, several of which have no “dog in the hunt”.
“I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was physically crucified and died on the cross. That is rock-bottom certain in my books. And it stands completely at odds with standard Islamic beliefs.”Dr. Bart D. Ehrman
Next, Dr. Shabir Ally, arguably the most accomplished living Muslim apologist, has backtracked during debates to the unorthodox position that Jesus was crucified but somehow swooned and was buried alive in a cave tomb. Allah then revived him and took him to himself. Shabir has taken that unorthodox stance in order to survive in a debate against a knowledgeable opponent. Dr. Ally is not alone. Dr. Ali Atai’s views have changed dramatically over time. In a 2006 debate with Mike Licona, then Ali Atai held to the traditional view of some form of substitution (either volitional, punitive or rational/naturalistic) – in other words, someone may have been crucified but it certainly wasn’t Jesus. More recently, after adding M.A. and Ph.D. initials after his name, he now holds the view that Jesus, was crucified, “died” on the cross, and was resurrected a few days later. The word “died” is in quotes, because he believes that Jesus’ death came not as a result of the wounds of the cross per se, but because he yielded up his spirit – an unnatural biological death, in his words. This view is also held by Sheikh Imran Hossein. These latter views can be considered indistinguishable from the orthodox Christian position, but unfortunately no longer mesh with the argument presented in Psalm 91, Deuteronomy 21:22-23 and others.
If that weren’t enough, there are numerous occasions in the Gospel accounts where Jesus predicted his imminent and violent death at the hands of the Pharisees. Here is one example of several:
…for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”Mark 9:31 ESV
Lastly, the Psalm 91 interpretation of Quran 4:157-158 creates huge problems for Muslims in that it begs answers to several unanswerable questions.
- Who was crucified then, if Jesus didn’t die on the cross? How was that fair?
- Did Jesus’ closest companions know about this substitution?
- If not, why did God deceive them? Why would God allow them to create the largest cult of all time, sending billions to hell?
- If so, why did the closest companions lie, spread false information and create the largest cult of all time, sending billions to hell?
- And why were they willing to die for a clear lie?
Fortunately, the Bible gives us clear guidance from other messianic prophecies. Isaiah writes:
3He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;Isaiah 53:3-10 ESV
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
The “logic” of the Psalm 91 argument rests on the premise that neither Allah nor Jesus wanted the crucifixion to occur, that crucifixion was a “bad” thing, a calamity to be avoided at all costs. It turns out that the exact opposite is true. What if the Messiah wanted to offer himself “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” and to be “stricken for the transgression of my people”? What if Allah agreed with Him by saying “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him” … “when his soul makes an offering for guilt”? So, how does this fit in with the promise of protection provided in Psalm 91? Could it be that the Islamic application of Psalm 91 is in error? Could it be that protection is given only when it is wanted and needed?
Yes, it is true that Jesus cried out in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. But if you recall, he always prayed “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (emphasis mine) Jesus was communicating with the Father in prayer to insure that his will was perfectly in sync with that of the Father.
We can see that the historical record, Old Testament prophecy, New Testament eye witness testimony, and logic are all unified against this view that Jesus was not crucified. I think it is time for my Muslim friends to rethink their argument. I welcome their dialog in the comments section below!
P.S. Sadly, I posted a rebuttal to the argument on the Muslim channels @Farid Responds and @ManyProphetsOneMessage and was promptly shadow banned by Channel Moderators on both channels! Apparently, the Lions of Jihad are just timid pussy cats without the courage to engage in dialog. Here are screenshots of my posts. Click on any thumbnail to open a larger version in its own window:
Note that both @ABerean and @ABereanMirror were both shadow banned.
Note that @ABereanFarewell was not shadow banned.
Update: I added a link to this article on @Farid Responds which resulted in getting @ABereanFarewell shadow banned. Tough crowd!
Update 2: I have since learned through experimentation that the @Farid Responds channel is set to automatically shadow ban comments with Internet links. I have posted a comment containing a link to this page that contains embedded spaces. So far, the comment hasn’t been shadow banned.
Update 3: @Farid Responds quickly shadow banned my post with the obfuscated link. Many moderators are just turning comments off altogether. Again, why fear open discussion if your argument is so good? The answer is clear: The Channel Moderators know their argument is da’if (weak) and would rather deceive the ummah (Muslim community) in order to protect their fragile imam (faith). Withholding truth is futile and unwise. First, it is destined to fail. Second, when the ummah realize that they’ve been duped, they will be more angry than if you told them the truth in the first place!