Before entering a career in Information Technology, I was a journalist. I wrote for a newspaper and later became a corporate communications specialist for a utility company. The instincts I picked up as a journalist – to vet everything before printing it – have never left me. There’s nothing worse than reporting something as a fact without sufficient material to support that fact.
There is a verse in the Qu’ran, the holy book of Islam, which states the following regarding Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God:
4:157 - And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.
Putting religion aside for a moment, I’d like to review this statement as a journalist trying to vet what has been put forth here.
We know that the New Testament was begun a few decades after Jesus Christ walked the Earth. There are debates among scholars about when this or that epistle or Gospel may have been written, but in general it is accepted that the majority, if not all, of the New Testament was committed to writing before the year 100 AD.
We also know that years after Jesus lived on Earth, there were still many people who knew Him personally and were around Him during His ministry. The reason that things weren’t written down immediately was that the culture into which Jesus was born and in which He lived was primarily an oral culture. People told stories. Many probably could not read or write, but they could talk. And they could see and hear and touch.
Compare this then to the time and culture into which the Qu’ran was written. We know according to Muslim scholarship that Muhammad received his first “revelations” in or about 610 a.d. near Mecca, which is in what is now Saudi Arabia. We are told that these revelations came from an angel and that they began in a cave into which Muhammad had secreted himself to pray. Muhammad at the time was reputedly about 40 years of age.
No person in that culture or area had been alive when Jesus Christ walked the earth. Furthermore, the majority of the people in Arabia were not Christian or Jewish, but pagan. Therefore, there was no oral tradition handed down from generation to generation about Jesus and His life on earth and how it ended.
The Qu’ran, then, makes a statement which cannot tie itself directly to anyone who witnessed the life of Jesus Christ. It literally comes out of left field (as the saying goes). It makes a statement which indicates a denial of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and offers nothing other than Muhammad’s statement (which he claimed came from God) to back it up.
It also hints at a kind of “sleight of hand” by God to only make it appear that Jesus was crucified and that God possibly substituted another in Jesus’ place. My question here is – to what purpose? Why would God send a prophet (we’ll play in the Muslims’ ballpark here) and then falsify his death by casting an illusion over his contemporaries? That just doesn’t make any sense.
The following two verses (4:158 – 4:159) in the Qu’ran say:
“Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise. And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness.”
This simply has no traction in the time of Jesus. The Jews who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah don’t give any credence to this either. They do not accept Christ’s Resurrection, but they don’t think God somehow absconded with Him. The Christian community believed Jesus rose from the dead and remained on Earth for some time before returning to His Father in Heaven. No one on any side gave an account that He simply vanished and/or that someone was substituted for Him on the cross.
As to the last verse quoted above - by reading and comparing translations (it seems a little clumsy in translation) what I understand it to mean is that anyone who believes in Jesus as divine upon death, that Jesus Himself will be a witness against him at the final judgment since this belief contradicts the Qu’ran.
I guess the most charitable thing I can say about that is….I’ll agree to disagree.
N.B. Quotes from the Qu’ran taken from the online Sahih International version.