Was Prophet Isa al Masih (Jesus) really killed, crucified, and raised from the dead?
The Injil (the Bible's New Testament) reports the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Hazrat Isa (Jesus) in various references including the books of Matthew 27:32-28:8, Acts 2:22-24, and Romans 5:6-8. Furthermore, there are other facts which support those circumstances that have changed the world ever since.
Christians say that Jesus is God, but how can God die, eat, sleep, etc.?
The answer is found in Philippians 2:6-7:
God revealed Himself in Jesus as perfect man. As such he was given birth by his earthly mother Mary, he had a normal human body, and therefore, he naturally felt hungry, weary and could be put to death on a cross—but in his human nature only. In his humanity he could also make statements like,
In other words, Jesus has two natures; He is fully man and fully God!
God is limitless in His presence, but by His choice he may manifest himself in a limited way for the good of man. This is also what he did when he spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:4, Surah 28, Al Qasas, verse 30). Nothing is impossible for God!
A manifestation of the sun to humans takes place through a tiny reflection on the retina of the eye. This image shows the whole sun while the sun remains itself. In the same way, Jesus shows God while God remains the same.
At the resurrection of the dead people will get spiritual bodies. Jesus appeared to his disciples after the crucifixion in his natural body, which shows that he die not die.
Ahmed Deedat argues Jesus Christ denied that he died on the cross by showing his disciples that he was not a ghost (Luke 24:36-47). Deedat refers to 1 Corinthians 15:35-44 and explains that anyone would receive a spiritual body when he raises from the dead, in other words he would not have flesh and bones as Jesus had. Since Jesus denied he would be a ghost who has a spiritual body, he also denied that he died in the first place. (see Video entitled, “Crucifixion, Fact or Fiction?” featuring a debate between Ahmed Deedat and Dr. Robert Douglas)
As Dr. Douglas already pointed out very well in the debate, the word “spiritual” has different meanings (Galatians 6:1) depending on the context of the passage. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-44, referred to by Ahmed Deedat, it is the general resurrection of mankind at the day of judgment.
Hebrews 9:27 also speaks about the final judgment day when it mentions that man has to die once. Deedat quotes the first part of this verse out of context and comes therefore to the wrong conclusion that Lazarus did not die he only swooned. However, the text (John 11:17-44) tells us unmistakably that he had already been in the tomb for four days! In four other circumstances (Luke 7:11-15, Matthew 9:18-26, Acts 9:37-42; 20:9-12) it is equally clear that the people who experienced a bodily resurrection were dead before.
In all those instances a miracle took place, which by its very nature had to break the realm of the ordinary. Normally the resurrection takes place only once and people receive a spiritual body, but in those cases it occurred before the judgment day and with a physical body that people would believe Jesus is Lord!
As a miraculous sign (Matthew 12:38-39) He rose from the grave in a combination of both ways described above. His resurrected body had flesh and bones too (Luke 24:39) but in addition was able to walk through locked doors (John 20:26)!
This reasoning is in line with the general view, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
Like Jonah, Jesus did not die either.
Their argument is built on the following verses:
In this passage Jesus refers to His death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection on the third day. The words “three days and three nights” refer to a common Jewish reckoning of time and mean the same as when a European would say “three days”. According to the Talmud, a Jewish commentary to the Mishna (written regulations about life in the Jewish community), any part of a day is counted as a full day in Jewish thought. Since Jesus was born into a Jewish culture, His words need to be understood in the Jewish context. He died on an early Friday evening (Matthew 27:45, reckoned as 1. day), remained in the grave the whole of Saturday (Matthew 27:62, reckoned as 2. day) and rose from the dead on Sunday morning (Matthew 28:1, reckoned as 3. day).
This same way of counting part of days as whole days is found in other parts of the Bible:
Here we see that the words “three days” and “until the third day” are used interchangeable because they have the same meaning!
For more examples please read Genesis 42:17-20 where Joseph puts his brothers into custody “for three days” and released all but one “on the third day.” These two phrases are used interchangeably because they express the same truth.
The words “three days and three nights” where an Egyptian was neither eating or drinking in 1 Samuel 30:12 are explained in verse 13 to be equal to “three days.”
In Esther 4:16 the Jews, including Esther, decide to fast for “three days, night or day.” Chapter 5:1-6 make it clear that they broke the fast “on the third day” because that is exactly what is meant by the expression “three days and three nights”!
When Jesus refers to His death on the cross and His resurrection as the sign of Jonah He wants to declare the following main truth:
In the same way as Jonah rose again from what normally is leading to a sure death, (being swallowed by a huge fish for three days) Jesus too will raise again after three days from what usually no one can escape, from death!
Jesus likens what will happen to Him with the story of Jonah also in regard to the time factor, the three days.
Since we must not take everything literally in an incident that is used as a sign to compare with another situation, the fact that Jonah stayed alive in the belly of the fish cannot be used as a proof that Jesus too must have survived the cross alive. This way of arguing would lead us into big problems because then we would also have to try to apply the other details of Jonah's story to what happened to Jesus. This is impossible because Jonah disobeyed God, Jesus did not, Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish, Jesus was not, etc.
This same way of using a comparison to communicate one major truth only is found in other parts of the Bible:
The context (verses 23-25) shows that the only point Jesus makes in this verse is that His return will be visible everywhere. To read into His statement more than this would be a dangerous speculation.
The sign of Jonah has to be studied in its wider context. Besides many verses that clearly mention Jesus' death and resurrection, verses 18-22 of John, chapter 2 help to further clarify the matter:
Here again Jesus is asked for a miraculous sign and He repeatedly states that they would find it in His resurrection from the dead after three days! But this time He makes it clear that they would destroy this temple, meaning they would kill His body!
It is not uncommon for Jesus to express the same truth (as in the sign of Jonah) but in different ways, with a slightly different emphasis (here stressing His death as well). For more examples of this method of teaching, please read Matthew 13:24-30 and compare it with verses 47-50, or 13:44-46).
Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Getsemane for deliverance from the cross was answered.
Dr Hasan M. Baagil built his case mainly on two passages:
Claim: Jesus did not die on the cross he only swooned.
Muslims like Ahmad Deedat (see, “Crucifixion or Crucifiction?”, H.M Bageel (see, “Christian Muslim Dialogue”) and the Ahmadiyyas give new meanings to a number of verses from the Biblical account on the death and the resurrection. They would like to convince their readers that Jesus survived the crucifixion because he only became unconscious. Later in the cool of the tomb he allegedly recovered. By doings so they actually confirm that Jesus was crucified on the cross even though Surah 4, Al-Nisa, verse 157 is traditionally interpreted to mean that he was not crucified:
…whereas they killed him not nor crucified him… (Qur'an, Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 157)
To say that the words in the Quran “nor crucified him” mean that Jesus did not die as a result of the crucifixion, in other words to be crucified means to be killed, is clearly wrong. In Acts 2:23 we read that the words “to crucify” (=to nail on a cross) do not necessarily mean “to kill.” If it was not so why would Peter have been inspired by God to say:
If the words “nailing him to the cross” would be equal to “death” there would be no need for one or the other!
Claim: Roman soldiers did not break Jesus' legs which would have caused his death. Did they want to save him because he was innocent? If he died on the cross, his blood would clot and not gush out of his body when his side was pierced.
H.M Baagil and others referred those arguments to John 19:32-34. To give the reader an idea how they take the issues out of context, he shall be provided with the surrounding verses 31-37 as well.
Verse 33 states that the Roman soldiers found Jesus already dead. Mark 15:33-37 notes that Jesus died about 3 PM on Friday afternoon. The body was taken down quite sometime before sunset (see Mark 15:42-47) which usually occurs around six PM during Spring when the crucifixion took place. That leaves approximately two hours at the most wherein Jesus' body was pierced with a spear. This is not enough time for blood within a dead body to clot. The Greek word used in verse 34 to say that blood and water flowed out is literally translated as just “came out”. That indicates the piercing to have taken place shortly after Jesus died.
In 1986 the world famous Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol 255, No.11, pages 1455-1463, March 21) published an article entitled, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.” William. D. Edwards, MD, a pathologist wrote:
Claim: The teaching that Jesus died on the cross for our sins contradicts Hosea 6:6 where God said: “For I desire mercy not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (See “Christian Muslim Dialogue” by H.M. Baagil, page 31)
Hosea 6:6 and all others passages similar to it (1 Samuel 15:22, Isaiah 1:11-17, Micah 6:8, Psalm 40:6-9, Matthew 9:13, 12:7) when read in their context show clearly that God is not against sacrifice in itself. He only opposes those offerings that were done apart from faithfulness to his will. They are completely unacceptable to him. It is like those who go to the mosque on Fridays but during the week they live a sinful life. God will never be pleased with their visit to the mosque under these circumstances.
Claim: Jesus cannot die for someone else’s sin because each one has to be punished for his own sins according to Ezekiel 18:4: “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”
It is true that each person is responsible for his own sins. A sinner cannot take the place of another sinner and ask God to be punished on behalf of the other. Jesus however was without sin and therefore the only one able to take our sins and be punished for them in our place. In opposite to everyone else Jesus was sinless from birth (Surah 19, Maryam, verse 19, Hebrews 4:15). This truth is confirmed by the following Hadith: “Satan touches all children at birth except Jesus” (Bukhari, Volume 6, page 54)
Why did Jesus have to die on the cross and rise again?
Why does God not simply forgive man when he committed sin? This is probably the most important question of all. If we can understand why Jesus had to die, it will be easier for us to believe that He did so. The Bible (Leviticus 11:45) and the Quran (Surah 59, Al Hashr, verse 23) tell us that God is holy. That means He is separated from anything that is unclean, bad, and hypocritical, in other words from anything that is sin. Both, the Bible (Isaiah 59:1-2) and the Quran (Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verses 35-36) tell us that sin separates man from God. Therefore, sin is not just a minor mistake, but absolutely intolerable in the sight of God!
Another reason why sin has to be treated seriously, is because God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Surah 95, Al Tin, verse 8). He punishes every wrong doer and awards the one who does right. However, God will not judge according to our good or bad works alone (Romans 3:23-24, Surah 35, Fatir, verse 45). He loves us so much (John 3:16) that in His mercy he chooses to forgive our sins. But if He would forgive our sins without punishment, then in His mercy He would become unjust!
That is why God revealed Himself in Jesus and died on the cross for our sins. In Jesus God met the requirements of His justice and of His love! Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, for our sin. In Deuteronomy 21:23 anyone who hangs on a tree is described as being sinful and under God's curse. Galatians 3:13 explains that Jesus, himself without sin, became a curse for us because he took our sin on himself.
After paying the penalty for sin through His death, Jesus rose again. Consequently The death and resurrection of Jesus are of the utmost importance for Christians! The following illustration will help to better understand this profound matter:
There was once a king who possessed a huge kingdom over which he also ruled as a just judge. He wrote down laws which had to be kept by everyone so that order and justice would be maintained.
One day his very own son whom he loved so dearly, committed a terrible crime. The law made it very clear that a perpetrator, such as his child had become, would have to face a fine was so costly that a lifetime of work could not pay it. The king's son was unable to pay it. However, the just judge could not change the law simply because the sinner was his own son, otherwise he would not have been impartial anymore. He decided that his child too was guilty, but when he pronounced the judgment, out of love, he offered to pay the fine on behalf of his son. In that way he could meet the demands of his justice but also of his love for the disobedient child.
The son sorrowfully repented of his crime and humbly accepted his father's offer. This incident changed him so completely that he decided to love and serve his father forever. By doing this he could certainly never pay back the vast amount of the fine. No, he changed his way of life to express his great thankfulness towards his just and loving father.
The king in the illustration symbolizes God, the kingdom is the world. The laws are the Holy Scriptures, the king's son is all mankind and the terrible crime committed by him is sin. The sum of the fine stands for the punishment of sin, which is a invincible separation from the Holy God. The king who took his son's place and paid the fine on behalf of him illustrates what God has done for all mankind in Jesus. He paid the punishment for sin by dying on our behalf at the cross.
Finally, the complete change that took place in the life of the son is a picture of the new life of a Christian. By faith, through a prayer of forgiveness he accepts what Jesus Christ had done for him. He believes that Jesus took upon him the punishment for men's sin. Only out of thankfulness he starts to love and serve God, not because he thinks he could ever earn a place in heaven by doing good. Whatever the newly born Christian now does will be motivated by love for the One who saved him from a terrible punishment.
Some Muslims might object to the illustration above by saying that God's attributes of Justice and Mercy cannot be understood. They are completely different from our human concept. It is true that God's attributes are different from ours, but only in regard to their perfection rather than their definition. If the meaning of God's characteristics were so completely different from our understanding then His ninety nine names, which describe them, would be unnecessary! Besides that, God Himself used illustrations in the Quran: In Surah 13, Ar-Ra'd, verses 16-17 we read that “…Thus doth Allah set forth parables.” (See also Surah 16, Al Nahl, verses 75-76)
A Muslim enquirer recently asked: 'The Bible states that God sacrificed his Son, but yet we also read that Jesus was resurrected back to life and is sitting on the right hand of God. When you sacrifice something, you do not take it back 3 days latter, is this not a contradiction?'
The reason why Jesus the perfect sacrifice was raised to live again on the third day is found in the word 'perfect.' Animal sacrifices were imperfect, they just pointed to the perfect one. That is the reason why they had to be offered again and again. That is also the reason why they were not raised to life again. However, Christ being the perfect, sinless sacrifice only had to die once. Since he paid the punishment for sin, namely death by his own death, death no longer became a reality! That is precisely why God raised Jesus to live again. This profound truth is expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57:
Death that came as a result of sin is defeated by Jesus! He as the firstfruit has been raised to life therefore. Those who believe in his perfect sacrifice will follow his example once they die physically. The following verses, again quoted from 1 Corinthians 15 in the beginning of this letter to you confirm this good news:
Here are some more verses that speak about the same truth:
Wow! What a message! That Christ was raised to life again after he died sacrificially for us is not a contradiction. Since death for him was no more, there is nothing that could be a contradiction to his being raised to life! Can I encourage you to read those verses in their wider context of the entire Injil. I am sure you will be blessed by them. Please contact us if you would like a free copy of the Injil or a correspondence course of the holy scriptures.
(Above content authored and provided by Abdullah Ibrahim)