We Muslims have a great love and respect for Jesus(as). We believe in him as one of the chosen and beloved prophets of God.
The picture of Jesus(as) which the Western people present to the world is colored by their own heritage of Greek and Roman paganism. The Christians’ Jesus is a composite of many Greek and Roman gods.
The Jesus(as) we believe in was a prophet of God. When his enemies tried to kill him on the cross, God saved him from the disgraceful death of a false prophet. He did not die on the cross, but survived and afterwards he migrated to a foreign land where he lived to a ripe old age and died a normal natural death.
There are paintings of Jesus(as) dating from the second century, found in the catacombs. These paintings show Jesus(as) as an old man, with typical middle-eastern Jewish features. Starting about the time of the inquisition when all opposing voices were silenced by force; when the Muslims and Jews were slaughtered and the books were burnt and history re-written, at about this time the paintings of Jesus(as) began to look like young Roman boys wearing female clothes.
First and second century paintings are in the hands of the Christians and reproductions of some of them have been shown in the Encyclopedia Britannica. This is the earliest historical evidence we have about Jesus(as). These are not pictures of a young man who died in his thirties. These are pictures of a very old man.
Besides this there is no historical record from which we can in any way even interpret that Jesus(as) died on the cross. Josephus is the only historian who was a contemporary of Jesus(as). He makes only a passing reference to Jesus(as). The Encyclopedia Britannica, speaking of this says:
“Twenty years later, according to Tacitus, Christians in Rome were prominent enough to be persecuted by Nero, and it was known that they were devoted to Christus, whom Pilate had executed (Annals 15.44). This knowledge of Jesus, however, was dependent on familiarity with early Christianity and does not provide independent evidence about Jesus. Josephus wrote a paragraph about Jesus (The Antiquities of the Jews 18.63ff.)—as he did about Theudas, the Egyptian, and other charismatic leaders (History of the Jewish War 2.258–263; The Antiquities of the Jews 20.97–99, 167–172)—but it has been heavily revised by Christian scribes, and Josephus’s original remarks cannot be discerned.” (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus/The-Jewish-religion-in-the-1st-century#toc222994)
About 100 of the Christian era, the Roman historian, Tacitus and also Pliny the Younger make mention of Jesus(as) in discussing the treatment of the early Christians. There is also a dubious passage in the Roman historian Seutonius mentioning somebody called “Chresto”. But it is generally understood about this reference that although it might be taken to mean Jesus Christ, it is clear that Seutonius did not understand it that way.
In addition I would like to present a few more quotations. The Encyclopedia Britannica says:
“There are a few references to Jesus in 1st-century Roman and Jewish sources. Documents indicate that within a few years of Jesus’ death, Romans were aware that someone named Chrestus (a slight misspelling of Christus) had been responsible for disturbances in the Jewish community in Rome (Suetonius, The Life of the Deified Claudius 25.4)” (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus/The-Jewish-religion-in-the-1st-century#toc222994)
The Encyclopedia Britannica further says:
“Fuller information about Jesus is found in the Gospels of the New Testament, though those are not of equal value in reconstructing his life and teaching. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree so closely with one another that they can be studied together in parallel columns in a work called a synopsis and are hence called the Synoptic Gospels. John, however, is so different that it cannot be reconciled with the Synoptics except in very general ways (e.g., Jesus lived in Palestine, taught, healed, was crucified and raised.” (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus/The-Jewish-religion-in-the-1st-century#toc222994)
It is clear from the above that there is positively no authentic historic record which can prove that Jesus(as) died on the cross. But we can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt from the old second century paintings that at least, the earliest followers of Jesus(as), the people of catacombs, knew of Jesus(as) as an old man and never thought of him as a person who died in his youth.
Since it is obvious that there is no authentic history about Jesus(as), one may turn to traditional history to establish some clues about him. So let us examine Christian traditional history about Jesus(as).
Here is an example of traditional Christian history:
Christian “history” tells us that one night, on the 25(th) of December, in the middle of winter, in the high, cold hills of Bethlehem in Palestine, where not a blade of grass grows in winter, in the middle of the night, some shepherds were quietly grazing their sheep. They did not know it was winter because they didn’t have thermometers in those days and weren’t wearing their watches so they didn’t know it was midnight. Here they were comfortably sitting on the hills when suddenly from the outer space came a star. It entered our galaxy like one big flashlight, came down and sat on the roof of a horse barn somewhere.
Pretty soon along came three men riding along following the star. It seems they were trying to say,
“Take us to your leader”
but they didn’t need much help from the shepherds since the star just sat on the roof and showed them how to find that horse barn. The three men came from the East but it is left to one’s imagination how many thousand miles and what speed they traveled.
About this time, the chorus joins in up in the balcony singing, “Hallelujah”, peace on earth.
The twenty fifth of December is not the birthday of Jesus(as) but was the old Roman festival of Saturnalia, celebrating the winter Solstice. At this time the sun begins its movement northward, signifying the return of Spring. This occasion has been the cause of celebration in every pagan, sun-worshipping religion since the beginning of time.
The origin of the story of the death of Jesus(as) on the cross and cross worship is purely pagan in origin. In the National Museum of Terme’, at Rome, is the oldest specimen of art showing a figure on a cross. This picture is engraved in plaster and shows a figure with a donkey’s head hanging on the cross and a believer is offering homage at the foot of the cross.
Arthur Weigall in his book Paganism and Christianity writes:
“One of the earliest seats of Christianity was Antioch, but in that city there was celebrated each year the death and resurrection of the god Tammuz or Adonis, the latter name meaning simply, ‘The Lord’. The place as selected by the early Christians as the scene of the birth of Jesus was none other than an early shrine of this pagan god, as St. Jerome was horrified to discover, a fact which shows that Tammuz or Adonis ultimately became confused in men’s minds with Jesus Christ. This god was believed to have suffered a cruel death, to have ascended to Hell or Hades, to have risen again and to have ascended to heaven. There is one feature of the gospel story which seems really to have been borrowed from the Adonis religion, and in fact from other pagan religions also, namely, the descent to hell.”
These same pagans became followers of St. Paul, the enemy of Jesus(as). They removed the donkey’s head and, being Romans, substituted the more appropriate head of the hated Jew. Romans have had a long record of killing Jews on the crosses by the thousands, so the Jew’s head was a perfectly natural substitute.
The figure of Jesus(as) on the cross with blood, thorns and nails did not appear in the beginning. Collier’s Encyclopedia says:
“Actual representations of the crucified Christ first appear in the fifth and sixth centuries, and early examples represent Christ as alive, clothed and crowned with a diadem. The crown of thorns, wounds, and blood caught in a chalice appear in the Middle Ages.”
Christians claim that Jesus(as) died on the cross. But it seems that for about six hundred years the Christians didn’t know about it. It was only during the Dark Ages that they got around to putting blood and guts into their holy pictures. It was after a few centuries that they started drinking Jesus’s blood and eat his flesh and assure their forgiveness.
There is one historic discovery that has come to light in these days. That is the Shroud of Turin. In the famous book ‘Inquest on Jesus Christ’ by John Reban translated from the German by William Frischauer, it is written on page 44 that the Turin Linen, presented in Turin, revered by Christians and described by many Popes as the Shroud of Jesus, must be accepted as genuine. Decisive evidence is available to prove that, after crucifixion and removal of the crown of thorns, Jesus(as) was placed in the linen Shroud which is today kept in Turin and by virtue of the available evidence it is now a scientific fact that the body of a crucified man was not dead in medical sense at the time when it was placed in the shroud and during the time it reposed in it, because it can be clearly proved that the heart was then still active in the body. The existing blood imprints, their position and shape and their very presence in the Shroud are clear scientific proofs that the crucifixion was not accomplished in a legal sense and Jesus(as) was still alive when he was wrapped in this Shroud.
Photographs of the imprints on the Shroud represent a perfect negative with the anatomical, physiological, ethnological and bio typological realities and correspond with the body of Jesus Christ as examined by the experts of the German Convention.
This strange and exceedingly valuable material has really been preserved to this day. It was carefully hidden during the three hundred years of the persecution of Christians and it emerged after the edict of Milan in A.D. 312 from its hiding place in Jerusalem where it was kept in great veneration. In 431 A.D. the Empress Eudoxia acquired it for the church. In 1204, when Constantinople was conquered, the Shroud came to Besanco where it was kept in the Cathedral until 1349. It was then moved to France and Belgium and lastly in 1578 it was transferred to the Duke of Savoy’s residence in Turin where it remains to this day.
The scientific research into the Turin Shroud was published in 1935.
The crown of thorns on his head was removed after the body was taken down from the cross and one big thorn which pierced the head was also moved and the bleeding started from this point which is clearly shown in the Shroud.
It is possible that this bleeding occurred on the Cross but how could blood which had been on the body remain so fresh and in a liquid state that it was soaked up by the Shroud? There is further evidence after careful and photographic examination of the Shroud that there was a continuous flow of blood on the Shroud and this clearly indicates that there was activity of the heart.
It is clear from the above discussion that there is no authentic history about Jesus(as) except the accounts in the four Gospels.
The four Gospels also verify the fact that Jesus(as) did not die on the cross. Following are the facts from the Bible, in brief.
There is no mention in Mathew, Mark, Luke or John of any eyewitness actually seeing Jesus dying on the cross.
Jesus(as) never said that he was going to die on the cross in order to save mankind. He did not want to die on the cross, and that was not his mission or his purpose in coming to the world. He clearly stated his mission saying that he did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill it.
When Jesus(as) learned that his enemies were trying to kill him, he disguised himself, hid in the Garden of Gethsemane, set up a watch, kept two swords ready and prayed. He prayed hard to be saved from death on the cross in the following words,
“Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee, take away this cup from me. Nevertheless, not what I will but what Thou wilt.” The Gospel says that while praying “his sweat dropped on the ground like great drops of blood”.
The gist of this prayer of Jesus(as) was that he might be saved from death, not because he was afraid of laying down his life in the way of God, but in order that the will of God about His messenger might be fulfilled against the will of his enemies. This is the meaning of Jesus(as) saying,
“Not what I wilt but what Thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36)
Had Jesus(as) known that his death on the cross was God’s will, he would never have prayed,
“All things are possible unto Thee, take away this cup from me.”
Furthermore, Jesus(as) confirmed that his prayers were heard. He says in John Chapter 11,
“Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard and I knew that Thou hearest me always.”
When the disciple, Judas, betrayed him, Jesus(as) called him a Satan…the Devil. Christians should think over this point. Was Jesus right or wrong in calling Judas the Devil? Jesus(as) even said that it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born. It seems the Christians should thank Judas for delivering the reluctant Jesus to his executioners so they can now be assured of their regular Sunday communion. Without Judas there could be no salvation and those who pin their salvation on a few drops of blood, either symbolic or otherwise, would be lost in Hell for ever and ever.
Jesus(as) predicted that he would not die on the cross but would be like Jonah(as). He said that just as Jonah(as) was alive in the whale’s belly, prayed while in that place and came out alive, Jesus(as) also would go into the earth alive, pray there and would come out alive.
He prayed at Gethsemane and God heard his prayer. He was put on the cross, but was taken down alive although unconscious. He was put into the sepulcher, a spacious house and not a grave, where he remained to regain consciousness and come out alive.
It says in Mathews:
“Then some of the Scribes and Pharisees said to him,
“Teacher we wish to see a sign from you.”
But he answered them,
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Ninveh will arise at judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”(1)
This story is repeated in Mathew 16:1-4, Luke 11:29-32 although John 2:18 alone refers to this to the temple of Jerusalem. This is Jesus’ greatest miracle which unfortunately has not been fully grasped by some Christians. In the place of the sign of the cross now depicted by the artists, the symbol of Christianity in the early part of its history was the sign of the fish which again commemorated this great sign. It is clear from the above that Jesus declares this as his only sign i.e. as far as Judaism is concerned; this basic sign was that of Prophet Jonah(as).
“For as Jonah was a sign into the Ninehvites, so shall the son of man be to this generation.”(2)
Jesus(as) had clearly prophesized that just as Jonah stayed three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall he, an ordinary human being, remain for that period in the bowels of the earth. It needs to be emphasized that resemblance does not mean similarity in all details but in the basic features. The significance of this sign was that Jesus(as) should stay in the tomb for three days and three nights; although the Gospels say he remained there for two nights and three days. Nonetheless, he was, like Jonah(as), under the protection of God. Several other people have been swallowed by whales but few have come out alive as Jonah(as) did.
When one studies the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament, one draws the following conclusions:
Prophet Jonah(as) entered the belly of the whale alive.
He prayed and remained alive in it for three days and three nights.
He came out of the whale alive on dry land.
His preaching term started after he came out of the belly; he started preaching to the people he was commissioned to and was successful in his mission.
Similarly, Jesus(as) too:
Entered the sepulcher alive. Prayed and remained alive in the sepulcher for not less than two nights and three days.
Came out of the sepulcher alive appearing to his disciples.
Got a renewed lease of a successful preaching term to the people he had been commissioned to: the lost sheep of Israel.
Now, Christianity claims that by remaining in a hell-like state in the sepulcher, he redeemed mankind of all its sins. If that is admitted, he can have no resemblance with Jonah(as) who was at peace with God Almighty because he was engaged in prayers. In other words, Jesus(as) was alienated from God. Similarly, if Jesus(as) rose from the dead, he would not have been like Jonah(as) who went in alive first, remained alive in the belly, and came out alive from it. If after rising from the dead, he ascended to heaven to sit on the throne of his father, his subsequent mission to the lost sheep of Israel would have been missed, unlike the success which accompanied Jonah.
The people of Nineveh did not see Jonah(as) enter the belly of the whale nor did they see him come out of it alive. But when Jonah(as) went back to the people of Nineveh and they saw it was the same person that had once taken to flight in fear, and God Almighty had forced him back granting him success where he thought there was no prospect, this became a mighty sign of the dominion and power of Almighty God which the Ninehvites witnessed. This was the only sign witnessed by them, although admittedly his deliverance from the belly of the whale was an equally great sign.
God Almighty has immense powers and can repeat such a sign with another people when their prophet too enters the sepulcher alive and comes out from it alive. But all this will not have been witnessed by people closest to him and his enemies. This was to be followed by his successful travels to the lost sheep of Israel. If it took place, the sign of Jonah would have been fulfilled, but if it did not, the sign of Jonah would not have been accomplished. If Jesus’ survival is not accepted, the sign of Jonah flops, just as it would have flopped had he not left behind a trail of evidence pointing to the fallacy of Christian belief today. If Jonah(as) had told the people that he had remained alive in the belly of the whale, or come out of it alive, they would not have believed his claim, just as Christians are blinded by an age-old misconception and refuse to concede very tangible arguments.
Death on the cross was slow. Sometimes it took several days for a man to die on the cross. Jesus(as) was given drugs while on the cross, and remained on the cross only three hours or so. The two thieves crucified with Jesus(as) were killed after three hours by breaking their bones. Jesus(as) was unconscious and appeared to have died. His bones were not broken. Instead, his side was pierced with a spear. This was the only way to find out whether his heart was beating or not. When blood came gushing from the wound, it was clear that he was still living, and he was taken to the safety of the tomb for medical treatment. Blood never comes gushing from a dead body.
The Bible mentions that at least one hundred pounds of antiseptics and healing agents were carried into the tomb by the female disciples of Jesus(as )since all the male disciples had deserted him. The healing agents used for him are known as the Ointment of Jesus(as). A recipe of this ointment is found in over a thousand books of medicine written by men in different languages as Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic and Persian, ranging over a period extending to the second century after Jesus(as). With regard to this ointment these authorities on medicine write that the ointment was prepared for Jesus(as). It is also stated that this ointment is very useful in case of hurt and external injuries and that it heals the wounds and stops the flow of blood. The weight of evidence drawn from this source can hardly be overestimated for it is found not in religious books but in scientific works, and thousands of the physicians of every nationality and creed attest to its truth.
Later Jesus(as) came out of the tomb and disguised himself as a gardener. When he met his disciples, Thomas thought he was a ghost. This is another proof that his disciples were not with him while he was being treated and cured. He showed Thomas his nail wounds and assured him that he was still a man of flesh and bone and was very hungry. He was given food, which he ate.
Had Jesus(as) been truly resurrected, he would not have shown these wounds. Our Christian friends claim that Jesus(as) was an example of bodily resurrection after death and that we all will be restored to life in a physical body. But think about it for a minute. If Jesus(as) died and had been resurrected with the holes still in his hands and if after death, some of us will be resurrected with holes blasted in hour heads, arms and legs missing and insides hanging out because we were killed in some war or slaughtered in an accident, I don’t think Heaven will be a nice place to visit.
There is only one place in the four Gospels where Christians can “derive” that Jesus(as) died on the cross and that is where it says that Jesus “gave up the ghost”. Giving up the ghost never meant dying. Following is the exact meaning of the word ghost as Webster’s New World Dictionary explains it:
“Originally the spirit or soul, now only in give up the ghost, to die; hence…”
Even in the other dictionaries just as it says in Webster’s it is clear that now “give up the ghost” is taken to mean dying and some dictionaries even go further and restrict its use in this meaning for Jesus Christ only.
To Sum it all up, it is very obvious that there is no authentic history about Jesus from available authentic sources. The traditional history about Jesus(as) is mainly a product of pagan minds who became the earlier followers of St. Paul. Whatever is available in the Gospels leads us to believe that Jesus(as) was saved from the disgraceful death on the cross so his mission could be accomplished. Namely, so he could travel to other lands to attend to the lost sheep, the lost tribes of Israel.
So what about the people who continue to crucify Jesus(as)? The Holy Qur’an has summed it up in the following words:
“Some of them are illiterate; they know not the Book, treating their own false notions as such, and follow only conjecture. Painful is the chastisement awaiting those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say, ‘This is from Allah’; to gain therewith a paltry sum; so for them is a painful chastisement for that which they earn.”(3)
- Mathew chapter 12
- Luke 11:30
- Holy Quran Chapter 2:79-80