“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (I Corinthians 1:23). The message of the gospel—Christ crucified—was a stumbling block to the Jews because they could not accept a crucified Messiah. It is a stumbling block to Muslims for similar reasons.
Many Muslims believe that Jesus (Isa) did not die. Instead, He was honored and taken directly into heaven. Therefore, Muslims, in general, deny the crucifixion and death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Islam has no need for the cross and resurrection because Islam’s doctrine of salvation is based on human effort, not on the redemptive acts of God in Jesus Christ. Certainly, the Qur’an denies the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On the death of Jesus, the Qur’an is less clear.
Some passages seem to suggest that Jesus did die, albeit not by crucifixion.
For example, the infant Jesus of the Qur’an speaks from the cradle with these words: “Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)! Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute” (Surah 19:33-34). Clearly, if peace was upon Jesus on the day that He died, He must have died; but if peace was upon Him, he did not die under the wrath and curse of God on the cross as the Christian gospel teaches.
Elsewhere, Allah makes the following promise: “Behold, Allah said: O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute” (Surah 3:55). To “take thee and raise thee” has, according to some scholars, the idea of death followed by exaltation.
Whether the Jesus of the Qur’an died or not, he was not crucified:
That they said (in boast). ‘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).
Surah 4:157 is decisive for the Muslim against the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ only appeared to be crucified, but, in fact, he was not crucified. The common explanation is the “substitution theory.” Someone was substituted for Jesus so that he died instead of Jesus, while the enemies of Jesus believed that they had killed Jesus. Powerful, wise Allah fooled the enemies of Jesus, and Jesus was exalted into heaven. Many Muslims believe that Judas Iscariot was the substitute. Judas was arrested, scourged, crucified, and died instead of Jesus.
Therefore, the Qur’an (written during the lifetime of Mohammed c. 570-632, and compiled shortly after his death) opposes the Bible, both the Old Testament, which prophesies the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the New Testament, which records and interprets the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, the central message of the Bible, and certainly the centerpiece of Biblical salvation, is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Consider these words of Jesus to His disciples after the resurrection:
These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me… Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:44-48).
Christ teaches that His sufferings and death are (1) necessary and (2) prophesied in the Scriptures (the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms). Just one example from the prophets will suffice at this point:
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-11).
The gospel narratives (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) contain very detailed descriptions of the arrest, trial, sufferings, and death of Jesus. If Islam is true, these accounts are almost entirely fabricated.
The denial of these explicit Old Testament and New Testament testimonies places Muslims in a difficult position. The Qur’an attributes the Law (Torah), the Psalms, and the Gospel (Injil) to Allah:
Before this: We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): “My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth” (Surah 21:105).
It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went down before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the Criterion (of judgment between right and wrong) (Surah 3:3).
And in their footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute (Surah 5:46-49)
If only the People of the Book had believed and been righteous, We should indeed have blotted out their iniquities and admitted them to Gardens of Bliss. If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil (Surah 5:65-66).
If Mohammed during his lifetime spoke to his Jewish and Christian contemporaries to judge out of the Torah and the Gospel (Injil), which books did he mean? He must have meant the Law and Gospel that existed in the 6th/7th centuries (Mohammed lived from c. 570-632). There are many Old Testament and New Testament manuscripts from that time and all of them agree that Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus is fully God in human flesh, Jesus was crucified, and that He was buried and rose again from the dead. None of the manuscripts deny the fundamental truths that Christians confess today. Had the Jews and Christians consulted the Torah and Gospel (Injil) available in their day, they would have found them to contradict Mohammed’s message in the Qur’an. Mohammed did not know this, of course, because (as most acknowledge) Mohammed was illiterate.
If the Muslim wants to answer that the Torah and Gospel (Injil) have been corrupted, we must ask when this alleged corruption took place. If it happened before Mohammed was born, how could Mohammed ask the Jews and Christians to judge out of such (allegedly) corrupted texts? If it occurred after Mohammed’s death, it is easy for the Christian church to reconstruct the original text of Scripture. Many manuscripts are very old and certainly predate the Qur’an by centuries. In fact, there is more textual material available for the New Testament than any other ancient Greek text.
Either Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of His people, and rose again from the dead, or all the Christians who testified to His death and resurrection are liars and false witnesses. One cannot honor the Injil as the Qur’an commands, and still deny the death and resurrection of Jesus:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures … Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (I Corinthians 15:3-4, 12-19).
Next time, DV, we shall prove from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ was crucified, that He died, and was buried, and that He rose again from the dead. And we will explain why this is necessary for our salvation.
This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland.