Christ's crucifixion occurred about 2000 years ago. This is documented by Roman, Jewish, and Greek historians. However, the Quran denies the crucifixion occurred. In doing so, it goes against known, recorded history. This paper discusses Christ's crucifixion, and how it relates to Muhammad's theology.
Christianity teaches that Jesus was crucified. All four Gospels record the crucifixion. Later, He rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. But Muhammad said that Christ was not crucified. Islam and the Quran deny the crucifixion. Muhammad appeared on the scene about 600 years after Jesus. Muhammad claimed to receive 'revelations' from Allah, given to him through Gabriel. One of Muhammad's revelations was that Jesus was not crucified. Yet the evidence from both the New Testament, and other historical sources state that Christ was crucified.
The Quran, chapter 4:157 says:
"They declared 'We have put to death the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the apostle of God'. They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they had only his likeness."
In other words, someone other than Jesus was crucified. The majority of Muslims believe this substitutionary theory.
Why would Muhammad deny the crucifixion? What 'possessed' him to utter such words? The answer lies within Muhammad's personal theology. But first, let's examine the evidence for the crucifixion.
EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE THAT JESUS WAS CRUCIFIED AND DIED
JESUS PREDICTED HIS OWN CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH.
Jesus was not afraid to die. In fact, He predicted His own death and resurrection
Matthew 16:21 - "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."
Luke 18:31,32 - "Jesus took the twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles, they will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.'"
John 12:30-32 - "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself". He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die."
JESUS WILLINGLY WENT TO THE CROSS
Matthew 26:53 - "Do you not think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more that twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"
Matthew 26:39 - "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
John 10:18 - "No man takes it (his life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father".
THE NEW TESTAMENT DESCRIBES JESUS' CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH.
Matthew 27:32-50, (vs 35) - "When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots." (vs 50) - "And when Jesus had cried again with a loud voice he gave up his spirit."
Luke 23:26-46, (vs 33) - "When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left." (vs 46) - "Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit". When he had said this, he breathed his last."
John 19:17-30 (vs 18) - "Here they crucified him, and with him two others - one on each side, and Jesus in the middle." (vs 30) - "When he had received the drink, Jesus said "It is finished. With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."
BIBLICAL WITNESSES TO JESUS' CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH
Matthew 27:54-56 - "When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God." Many women were there watching from a distance... among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons."
John 19:26 - "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son", and to the disciple, "Here is your mother.""
THE TESTIMONY CONCERNING THE CRUCIFIXION AFTER HIS ASCENSION
The 11 disciples (Peter speaking): Acts 2:23 - "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Paul speaking: Acts 13:29 - "When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in the tomb."
OTHER HISTORICAL REFERENCES AS EVIDENCE
Evidence from the JEWISH SOURCES:
Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 43a: "On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [Jesus] was hanged [or crucified]. ... Since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover."
The Amoa "Ulla" (Ulla was a disciple of Youchanan and lived in Palestine at the end of the third century) adds: "And do you suppose that for (Yeshu of Nazareth - Jesus) there was any right of appeal? He was a beguiler, and the Merciful One hath said: "Thou shalt not spare neither shalt thou conceal him." It is otherwise with Yeshu, for He was near to the civil authority.
Note here that the writers of the Talmud took their job seriously. These men were Jews, not Christians, and they documented Christ's crucifixion.
EVIDENCE FROM ROMAN SOURCES:
Cornelius Tacitus in his Annals, xv. 44: "Christus ... was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontious Pilate."
Lucian of Samosata: "(Christ was) the man who was crucified in Palestine"
Note here that these men were professional historians. They researched their work before publishing it. They also documented Christ's crucifixion.
Therefore, three types of witness all of whom are from the 1st or early 2nd century have been presented.
INFORMATION SURROUNDING ROMAN CRUCIFIXION AND CHRIST'S DEATH
Jesus could have never survived crucifixion, Romans were very careful to eliminate that possibility. Roman law laid the death penalty on anyone who bungled an execution. It was never done.
The fact that the Roman soldier did not break his legs indicates that He had already died; this procedure was for the hastening of death. The other two prisoners legs were broken. To breath on a cross one had to push oneself up with their legs, otherwise they would asphyxiate. That is why the legs of the crucified were often broken; to prevent the crucified person from pushing himself up to breathe. Obviously Jesus, out of exhaustion, stopped breathing which required he used his legs. If Jesus were not dead, it would have been obvious because he would of been pushing himself up and down the cross to breath. The Roman executioners were experts, they would not have been fooled. Some people have claimed that the Roman guards were really trying to save Jesus life by not breaking His legs. Why would the Roman guards try to save someone who was a seen as a threat to the empire? Further, by not insuring Christ's death, the Roman guards were putting their own lives at risk.
Jesus died from many different problems, one was the actual crucifixion. But before the crucifixion, Jesus was beaten and flogged. He was so tired that another man had to carry his cross.
To elaborate on the whipping. The Romans would strip a person down to the waist and would tie him in the courtyard. Then they would take a whip that had a handle about a foot and a half long. At the end of the handle, it had four leather thongs with heavy, jagged bones or balls of lead with jagged edges, wound into the end of the straps. There were a minimum of five straps. They would be different lengths. The Romans would bring the whip down over the back of the individual and all the balls of lead or bone would hit the body at the same time. The Jews would only permit 40 lashes. So they never did more than 39 so they wouldn't break the law if they miscounted. The Romans could do as many as they wanted. So, when the Romans whipped a Jew, they did 41 or more out of spite to the Jews. And so he had probably at least 41, if not more, lashes.
There are several medical authorities that have done research on crucifixion. One is Dr. C. Truman Davis, in the state of Arizona. He is a medical doctor who has done meticulous study of the crucifixion from a medical perspective. Here he gives the effect of the Roman flogging: "The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across (a person's) shoulders, back and legs. At first, the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutalleous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises, which the others cut wide open. Finally, the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue."
Many people would die just from the whipping. After the whipping they took Jesus out to the execution area and drove spikes into His wrists and His feet. It says that late that Friday afternoon they broke the legs of the two thieves hanging with Jesus, but they did not break His legs. He was on the cross and they'd already acknowledged Him being dead. Now the Roman executioners speared Jesus.
This was the method by which an executioner checked to see if a still victim was in fact dead. If blood and pericardial fluid came out as in Jesus' case, it was an indication of death and there was no need for the legs to be broken to hasten death so that the cross could re-used for the next victim. Eyewitness accounts said blood and water came out separated - indicating Jesus was already dead.
Ahmed Deedat, in his booklet "Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction", appealed to this phenomenon (blood and pericardial fluid coming out) as evidence that Christ was still alive. He supports this in his writing, by an appeal to an article in the Thinkers Digest 1949, by an anesthesiologist. Today, there is more medical research by various people in this area.
To comment on Deedat's erroneous assertion: first, from a scholastic viewpoint: many medical and university or varsity libraries that once carried this journal, no longer do so. It is considered by many in the medical field to be not only out of date, but behind the medical times.
Second, from a medical viewpoint: A wound of the type inflicted on Jesus, if the person were still alive, would not bleed out the wound opening, but bleed into the chest cavity, causing an internal hemorrhage. At the aperture of the wound, the blood would be barely oozing from the opening, For a spear to form a perfect channel that would allow the blood and serum to flow out the spear wound is next to impossible. The massive internal damage done to a person under crucifixion, and then being speared in the heart area, would cause death almost immediately, not even including what happens with the details of a Jew's burial. At the State of Massachusetts General Hospital, over a period of years, they did research on people who died of a ruptured heart. Normally, the heart had 20 cc's of pericardial fluid. When a person dies of a ruptured heart, there is more than 500 cc's of pericardial fluid, and it would come out in the form of a fluid and clotted blood. Perhaps this is what was viewed when Christ was stabbed by the spear thrust.
Pilate was somewhat surprised that Christ had already been dead, when they had come and asked for the body. Pilate called a centurion and said, "I want you to go and confirm to me that Jesus is dead." This centurion was not a fool. He was not about ready to leave his wife a widow.
The centurion would always check with four different executioners. That was Roman law. There had to be four executioners. They did that so in case one man was a little lax, the other one would catch him in it. And you would never have all four lax in signing the death warrant.
Discipline was severe with the Romans. For example, when the angel let Peter out of jail in Acts 12 in the New Testament, Herod called in the guard and executed them all - just for letting one man out of jail. In Acts 16 the doors had been opened up in the jail for Paul and Silas, their chains had been loosened, and the moment the guard saw they were freed, he pulled out his own sword to execute himself. And Paul said, "Wait a minute!" You see, that guard knew what would happen if the prisoners escaped. The prison guard would be executed. He decided he would rather die by his own sword, than be executed by the Romans.
So, Pilate had Jesus' death verified [refer Mark 15:45]. Then he gave Jesus' body over to Joseph to be buried.
I have provided ample proof for the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
Let me suggest a 4 part test for determining the credibility of witnesses. It is based on David Hume's criteria.
1) Do the witnesses contradict each other? 2) Are there a sufficient number of witnesses? 3) Were the witnesses truthful? 4) Were they non-prejudicial?
Part #1. The answer to this is that the witnesses do not contradict each other. The Christian, Roman, and Jewish witnesses all agree that Jesus was crucified.
Part #2. There is a sufficient number of witnesses. Several witnesses from Christian sources, and two witnesses from Roman and Jewish sources have been given. There are actually more witnesses that could be mentioned, but this should be enough.
Part #3. The witnesses were truthful. There is no documented evidence contradicting what the witnesses presented. All of the early sources that mention Jesus' death, all state that He was crucified.
Part #4. A case could be made for the Christian sources being prejudicial; however, they were Christians because they saw Christ's death AND CHRIST'S RESURRECTION. The Jewish and Roman witnesses were clearly not prejudicial.
All in all, there is no justification for credible doubt concerning Jesus' crucifixion.