BBC Documentary: Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

April 21, 2006 - Director Interview - Richard Denton

Why do Muslims reject the idea of the Crucifixion altogether

Did Jesus Die On Cross (BBC Four Documentary)

This film investigates the variety of stories surrounding the New Testament account of the crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, by interviewing historians, theologians and historical researchers. This exploration of the latest theories about what really happened to Jesus 2000 years ago uncovers some surprising possibilities.

At the heart of the mystery is the suspicion that Jesus might not actually have died on the cross. The film concludes that it was perfectly possible to survive crucifixion in the 1st Century - there are records of people who did. But if Jesus survived, what happened to him afterwards?

One of the most remarkable stories concerns the charismatic preacher Jus Asaf (Leader of the Healed) who arrived in Kashmir in around 30 AD. Just before he died at the age of 80, Jus Asaf claimed that he was in fact Jesus Christ and the programme shows his tomb, next to which are his carved footprints which bear the scars of crucifixion.

Why do Muslims reject the idea of the Crucifixion altogether?

By Sister "K a r i m a" in a Yahoo group that does not exist any more!!!

There is nothing strange about the Muslims rejecting this idea, because the Quraan in which they believe and accept what it tells them definitively states that it did not happen, as God (Allaah) says (translation of the meaning):

"Their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, - Eesa (Jesus Christ) son of Maryam (Mary), the messenger of Allaah " but they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it so appeared to them; and those who differ therein are indeed only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but just a conjecture they are following; and they certainly killed him not." (An-Nisaa 4:157)

Rather the problem rests with the Christians for whom the doctrine of the crucifixion and redemption has become a central issue, so much so that the cross is the symbol of their religion.

At the mention of - Eesa (Jesus), and the Jewish claim of killing him, God has taken the opportunity to strongly refute their claim that they were successful in having him killed. Although they thought that he was killed, in reality he was not. People were just confused and mixed up on this matter. Although the Christians also believe that he was killed on the cross and was then resurrected and taken to heaven, even they have no knowledge of the facts about Jesus. Their whole story about his passion and his crucifixion is based on hearsay and conjecture, not on facts or knowledge. If we look at Christian sources, we find that there are so many versions, narrations and contradictory reports that it is impossible to say exactly what transpired. No eyewitness accounts are available. Some people believe that the four Gospels are eyewitness accounts, but nothing can be farther from truth. None of the four Gospel writers was a disciple of Jesus and none of the disciples personally witnessed the hanging in any way because, fearful of Roman authorities, they had escaped and gone into hiding. As all four of the accounts are based on hearsay, they are very inconsistent and self-contradictory. That is why the Quraan says that they have no knowledge but are following only conjecture.

The question is if people at that time were confused and mixed up and the subsequent generations of Christians are just following some wishful thoughts, not reality, then what really did happen? The Quraan categorically says that he was neither killed nor crucified but Allaah (God) raised him or lifted him up towards Himself. So what does "Allaah raised him or lifted him up towards Himself" mean? Obviously, it cannot mean ascension after resurrection because God is categorically denying his death before being raised.

A simple, straightforward and apparent meaning is that physically he was lifted up and taken to heaven. However, some people who cannot fathom a live person being raised to heaven interpret it to mean that Jesus was raised (elevated) in status. This act of "raising" cannot mean raising of a status because neither is it expressly stated nor does the context allow that meaning. While declaring that the adversaries did not succeed in crucifying or killing Jesus, -but- cannot be followed by a mention of Jesus being raised in status. It can only relate to his physical existence.

Some people may assume that it just means natural death. Being lifted up or raised has never been used in the Quraan to imply death. This meaning is usually assumed by non-Arab Muslims because of the contemporary usage of the word "raised" to mean death. Because of the Muslims understanding that the soul of the dying person is raised to heavens, in some languages people have started figuratively using "raised" to mean "died". Based on that usage, which was developed long after the revelation of the Quraan only in oriental Muslim languages, some people think perhaps the Holy Quraan has also used "raised" for his being dead. This is far from the truth. It cannot mean "raised to heaven in spirit" as is used in our society for every dying person, regardless of how he died. This meaning, too, does not fit the context and rather makes it absurd because a statement to the effect, "they did not kill him, but his soul was taken up� does not make much sense. Also, there is no example of such use of the word "raised" either in any other place in the Holy Quraan or in the Arabic usage of the Prophet Muhammad′s time.

In addition, none of these meanings (raising of his status or his natural death) can be justified in the context of the verse because immediately after saying - but Allaah lifted him up or raised him, the Quraan refers to Allaah′s Omnipotence and His Wisdom indicating that it was an extraordinary incident involving Allaah′s Power and Authority, not an ordinary human death or raising of someone in status. Thus, "raised" in this verse means raised physically.

Lifting up of or raising of Jesus has been mentioned only at one other place in the Holy Quraan - that is in Soorah Aali-Imraan 3:55 where the Holy Quraan says: "They (Jesus′ enemies) plotted and Allaah also planned, and Allaah is the best of the Planners. At that occasion, Allaah assured, "O Jesus! I will you take you back wholly, raise you unto Myself, purify you from those who have rejected you, and make your followers dominate those who reject you". This indicates that Jesus knew before the Roman legion attacked that he will not fall into the hands of the enemy, but will be raised unto Allaah. Although the message here seems to be clear, some people are confused by the use of the word "Mutawaffeeka" - "take you back wholly and completely". This word means to take something completely. When a person dies, angels take his soul completely. For that reason, a derivative from the same root word is used metaphorically for death of a person. Because of this use of the word, people think that here also it is used for the death of Jesus. But again, this metaphoric meaning does not fit the context properly while the real meaning of the word does. Hence, the real meaning of the word should be used instead of the metaphoric. The Qur�aan needed to use this word in its real meaning to refute the Christian concept of being raised. Because Christians believe his being raised after resurrection which can only be in spirit, the Qur�aan, by using the words "take you back wholly", indicates that he was raised physically both in body and spirit as a living human being.

Some people think that Jesus was hanged but was taken down before his death. Some others go further and claim that, afterwards, he lived a normal life, got married and had children. About his subsequent life, some people theorize that he left for India to chase some lost sheep of Israel. There he died in Kashmir and is buried in Sarinagar. Some Japanese think that he migrated to Japan and lived and died there.

The Holy Qur�aan does not support these theories. Had Jesus survived crucifixion and died a natural death, the Holy Quraan would have mentioned it as such. The most important point about the discussions on topics such as these is to remember that the Quraan always states a point clearly instead of using a confusing style. If Jesus had died naturally subsequent to being saved from death on the cross, the Quraan would tell it clearly without mincing words. It would not use the words that give more indication of being raised alive than of dying, especially when there were already a big population of Christians believing in Jesus being raised after resurrection. If the purpose was to contradict the notion of Jesus being raised in any unusual form, it was much easier for the Quraan to say: Jesus did not die on the cross but died of natural causes in such and such circumstances, at so and so place. Instead of a report of that kind, Allaah has very clearly said that Jesus was not even crucified and has used such language that indicates some special, unusual incident of being raised to heaven without being put on the cross.

How did he evade arrest and how was he lifted up? How did all that happen? That is where the vagueness comes from. It is beyond our knowledge, experience or imagination. Thus being beyond our understanding, it is a matter of Mutashaabihaat. Allaah does not provide any details about Mutashaabihaat for many reasons.

First of all, Allaah being the Master rightfully expects of His servants to have full trust in Him and accept the facts as they are revealed by Him. As a matter of principle, He never explains how He does things. He just tells us that He commands the things to happen and they do happen. Secondly, even if Allaah had chosen to explain His actions for our understanding, people would have been unable to understand most of the things most of the time because His ways and means are infinite, always beyond human imagination and mostly beyond our finite understanding. Finally, even if Allaah would have given the details of what actually transpired, it would not have any value whatsoever because people would have no way of verifying the truth of the statements. The confusions and doubts would remain as they are. Any further information would have been useless in clarifying the issue and, hence, unproductive. So the statement that the Jews were not able to crucify Jesus and that Allaah raised him is sufficient and enough for the believers to know for all intents and purposes. For reasons such as these, Allaah has not described the way He caused the confusion and saved His messenger to raise him to the heavens. (Source: "Teachings of the Qur'aan - Soorah An-Nisaa' 150-158" by Ayub A. Hamid).

This difference between their Gospels and their historians with the story of the crucifixion is not the only one. They also differ concerning the timing of the Last Supper, which according to them was one of the events in the lead-up to the crucifixion. They differ concerning the traitor who led (the Romans) to Christ - did that happen at least one day before the Last Supper, as narrated by Luke, or during it, after Christ gave him the piece of bread, as narrated by John?

Was Christ the one who carried his cross, as John says, as was customary with one who was going to be crucified, according to Nottingham, or was it Simon of Cyrene, as the other three Gospels state?

They say that two thieves were crucified alongside Christ, one on his right and one on his left, so what was the attitude of these two towards the Messiah who was being crucified, as they claim?

Did the thieves scorn him for being crucified, and say that his Lord had abandoned him and left him to his enemies? Or did only one of them scorn him, and did the other rebuke the one who scorned him?

At what hour did this crucifixion take place - was it in the third hour, as Mark says, or in the sixth as John says?

What happened after the so-called crucifixion?

Mark says that the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom. Matthew adds that the earth shook and rocks crumbled, and many of the saints rose from their graves and entered the holy city, appearing to many. Luke says that the sun turned dark, and the veil of the Temple was torn in the middle, and when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God and said, "Truly this man was righteous."

But John does not know anything about all that!

These are not the only weak elements and indications of falseness in the story of the crucifixion, as narrated in the gospels. Rather the one who studies the details of the gospel narratives of this story will, with the least effort, notice the great differences in the details of this story, which are such that it is impossible to believe it all or even any part of it!

How desperate are the failed attempts to fill this gap and conceal the faults of this distorted book. Allaah indeed spoke the truth when He said in His Book which He has preserved (interpretation of the meaning):

"Do they not then consider the Quraan carefully? Had it been from other than Allaah, they would surely, have found therein many a contradiction" (An-Nisaa 4:82)

Apart from the fact that the gospel accounts are not sound, and their authors themselves admit that they were not revealed to the Messiah in this form, nor were they even written during his lifetime, none of the witnesses were present at the events to which they testify, as Mark says:

"Then everyone deserted him and fled." - Mark 14:50 - New International Version (NIV)

Because these events were not witnessed by anyone who narrated them, there is a great deal of room for imagination and poetic licence.

We will complete our discussion of the fable of the crucifixion of Christ (peace be upon him) by looking at what the Gospels say about the Messiah�s prediction that he would be saved from death:

On one occasion the Pharisees and chief priests sent the guards to arrest him and he said to them:

"I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me, and where I am, you cannot come." - John 7:33-34 - NIV

Elsewhere he says:

-Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come."

This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, "Where I go, you cannot come""

But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.

"Who are you?" they asked.

"Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world."

They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.

So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." - John 8:21-29 - NIV

Then at the end he tells them again:

"For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." - Matthew 23:39 - NIV, also Luke 13:35

The Messiah, as these texts and others show, was certain that God would never hand him over to his enemies, and would never forsake him.

-But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:32-33

Because of that the passers by, and indeed everyone who attended the so-called crucifixion, mocked the Messiah, as the writer of this Gospel says (although that could not have been true):

-Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads

and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.

"He saved others," they said, but he can′t save himself! He′s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, "I am the Son of God.""

In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. - Matthew 27:39-44 - NIV

But it seems that Jesus certainty that God was with him began to waver, according to the distorted Gospel narrative, (although that could not have been true):

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, "

So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners"" - Matthew 26:36-45 - NIV

Luke describes the scene and says:

"And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.

"Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."" - Luke 22:44-46 - NIV

Because of this mockery of the message of Christ " according to their claims " and because Christ thought that God was with him and would never forsake him, then it follows that the writer who fabricated this dramatic scene would end it with a vision of the despair of the Messiah and his feelings of being abandoned by God - exalted be Allaah far above what the wrongdoers say. The fabricator says:

"From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" - which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" - Matthew 27:38-47 - NIV

See also Mark 15:34

If we understand what this story means when subjected to criticism, the same will apply to the doctrine of redemption and sacrifice that is based on it.

Although one of the basic principles of the Muslim′s faith is to believe in the Gospel that was revealed to Eesa (Jesus), we also believe that there is no longer any book that remained as it was revealed by Allaah, neither the Gospel nor anything else, apart from the Quraan. Even the Christians themselves do not believe that the books that they have before them were revealed in that form from God, nor do they claim that the Messiah wrote the Gospel or at least that it was written during his lifetime. Imaam Ibn Hazm (may Allaah have mercy on him) says in al-Fasl fil-Milal (2/2):

Quote: "We do not need to try hard to prove that the Gospels and all the books of the Christians did not come from God or from the Messiah (peace be upon him), as we needed to do with regard to the Torah and the books attributed to the Prophets that the Jews have, because the Jews claim that the Torah that they have was revealed from God to Moosa (Moses), so we needed to establish proof that this claim of theirs is false. With regard to the Christians, they have taken care of the issue themselves, because they do not believe that the Gospels were revealed from God to the Messiah, or that the Messiah brought them, rather all of them from first to last, peasants and kings, Nestorians, Jacobites, Maronites and Orthodox are all agreed that there are four historical accounts written by four known men at different times. The first of them is the account written by Matthew the Levite who was a disciple of the Messiah, nine years after the Messiah was taken up into heaven. He wrote it in Hebrew in Judaea in Palestine, and it filled approximately twenty-eight pages in a medium-sized script. The next account was written by Mark, a disciple of Simon ben Yuna, who was called Peter, twenty-two years after the Messiah was taken up into heaven. He wrote it in Greek in Antioch in the land of the Byzantines. They say that the Simon mentioned is the one who wrote it, then he erased his name from the beginning of it and attributed it to his disciple Mark. It filled twenty-four pages written in a medium-sized script. This Simon was a disciple of the Messiah. The third account written was that of Luke, a physician of Antioch who was also a disciple of Simon Peter. He wrote it in Greek after Mark had written his account, and is similar in length to the Gospel of Matthew. The fourth account was written by John the son of Zebedee, another disciple of the Messiah, sixty-odd years after the Messiah has been taken up into heaven. He wrote it in Greek, and it filled twenty-four pages in a medium-sized script. End quote.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said in al-Jawaab al-Saheeh (3:21): "With regard to the Gospels that the Christians have, there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are agreed that Luke and Mark did not see the Messiah, rather he was seen by Matthew and John. These four accounts which they call the Gospel, and they call each one of them a Gospel, were written by these men after the Messiah had been taken up into heaven. They did not say that they are the word of God or that the Messiah conveyed them from God, rather they narrated some of the words of the Messiah and some of his deeds and miracles." End quote.

Moreover, these books which were written after the time of the Jesus the Messiah did not remain in their original form. The original versions were lost long ago. Imaam Ibn Hazm (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

With regard to the Christians, there is no dispute among them or anyone else that only one hundred and twenty men believed in the Messiah during his lifetime - and all of those who believed in him concealed themselves and were afraid during his lifetime and afterwards; they called people to his religion in secret and none of them disclosed himself or practised his religion openly, because any of them who was caught was executed.

They continued in this manner, not showing themselves at all, and they had no place where they were safe for three hundred years after the Messiah was taken up into heaven.

During this time, the Gospel that had been revealed from Allaah disappeared, apart from a few verses which Allaah preserved as proof against them and as a rebuke to them, as we have mentioned. Then when the Emperor Constantine became a Christian, then the Christians prevailed and started to practise their religion openly and assemble in safety.

If a religion is like this, with its followers practicing it in secret and living in constant fear of the sword, it is impossible for things to be transmitted soundly via a continuous chain of narrators and its followers cannot protect it or prevent it from being distorted. End quote. Al-Fasl, 2/4-5.

In addition to this huge disruption in the chain of transmission of their books, which lasted for two centuries, these books did not remain in the languages in which they were originally written, rather they were translated, more than once, by people whose level of knowledge and honesty is unknown. The contradictions in these books and their shortcomings are among the strongest evidence that they have been distorted and that they are not the Gospel (Injeel) that Allaah revealed to His Messenger Eesa (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Allaah indeed spoke the truth when He said (interpretation of the meaning):

"Had it been from other than Allaah, they would surely, have found therein many a contradiction" (An-Nisaa 4:82).

And Allaah is the Source of strength and the guide to the Straight Path, and there is no Lord but He.