The Bible and the Quran on the Crucifixion

I’ve been asked in the past why I trust the Bible over other religious texts like the Quran (or Koran). My answer usually includes the self-authenticating nature of the Scripture via the Holy Spirit, what it contains about Jesus and his work, and many other facades of apologetic reasoning concerning the Holy Scriptures. One large issue I have with the Quran is that it is blatantly ahistorical; it gets important elements of what has occurred in the past dead wrong. The Quran audaciously revises many of the biblical stories even tampering with the fulcrum of Christianity-the cross of Jesus. The Quran says in Surah  4:157-158 that:

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”—but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not—nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”

Unfortunately for this Quranic passage, the crucifixion of a Jewish rabbi in the first century named Jesus Christ is a brute FACT of history. This is why no credible historian ever consults the Quran when it comes to information about the historical Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection. There are three good strands of evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus: Biblical writers, extrabiblical writers, and the testimony of the Church via leaders, creeds, and other documents.

BIBLICAL SOURCES

The biblical accounts are relevant because they are a collection of historical documents that independently attest to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Many times and rightly so, we think of the New Testament as a unit. But, it is important that each document was written for its own purposes and intentions. Regardless, all of the New Testament books mention, allude or recount the crucifixion of Jesus. The evidence is overwhelming.

  • Mark attests to the death of Christ in Mark 15 (traveling companion of Peter who was an eye witness)
  • Matthew attests to the death of Christ in Matthew 27 (eye witness)
  • Luke attests to the death of Christ in Luke 23 and throughout the book of Acts (2:23; 3:15; 4:10;10:39; etc.) (Historian who got his information from eye witnesses [Luke 1:1-4])
  • John attests to the death of Christ in John 19; 1 John 2:2; Rev. 1:8 etc. (eye witness)
  • The writer of Hebrews attests to the death of Christ in Heb. 2:9, 14-15, 9:26; 10:12; 12:2 etc.
  • Jude attests to the death of Christ in Jude verse 25 of his book.
  • Peter attests to the death of Christ in 1 Pet. 2:24
  • Paul attests to the death of Christ in almost every one of his sixteen letters he penned (Rom.5:6, 8;1 Cor. 1:17-18; 2 Cor. 5:14; Gal. 5:11; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; Col. 1:20, 2:15, 1 Thess. 4:14; 2 Tim. 2:11)
  • The Jewish leadership as mentioned in Acts and the Gospels attest to the crucifixion.

EXTRABIBLICAL SOURCES
Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig has pointed out that “From the Jewish historian Josephus and the Syrian writer Mara bar Serapion we learn that the Jewish leaders made a formal accusation against Jesus and participated in events leading up to his crucifixion. From the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a, we learn that Jewish involvement in the trial was explained as a proper undertaking against a heretic. And from Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus, we learn that Jesus was crucified by Roman authority under the sentence of Pontius Pilate.”

Mara Ben Serapion (A.D. 73), the Stoic philosopher from the Roman province of Syria, said:

What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their Kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.

The Babylonian Talmud, a collection of rabbinic discussions concerning the Law, ethics, and philosophy of Judaism, said:

On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu* [= Jesus]. And an announcer went out in front of him for forty days, saying: ‘He is going to be stoned, because he practised sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.’ But not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover.

Tacitus, a Roman historian, said in his Annals (115 A.D.):

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

And lastly, Josephus, the Jewish historian, said in his book Antiquities (90-95 A.D.):

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. (64) And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross [2], those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day [3], as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.

Other information concerning the evidence for Jesus’ existence can be found in Gary Habermas’ book Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus.

Other early, extrabiblical evidence for some façade of Jesus’ existence can be found in the writings of Suetonius (Life of Claudius), Lucian of Samosata (The Death of Peregrinus), Celsus (True Doctrine), Governor of Bithynia to the Emperor Trajan (Letter of Pliny the Younger), and Grafitto of Alexamenos.

TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH

Virtually every Christian and unorthodox sectarian group affirmed the death of Christ. Research the writings of the following people and see for yourself what they believed about the crucifixion of Jesus: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, the writer of the Didache, the writer of the Shepherd of Hermas, Adrain monk of Antioch, Alexander of Alexandria, Alexander of Lycopolis, Ambrose of Milan, Amphilochius of Iconium, Anthony the Great, Aphraates, Apollinaris of Hirapolis, Apollinaris of Laodicea, Apollinaris of Ephesus, Aristitides the Athenian, Aristo of Pella, Aristo of Pella, Arnobius, Asterius of Amasea, Athanasius, Athenagoras of Athens, Atticus, Augustine of Hippo, Aurelius of Carthage , Ausonius, Avitus of Vienne, Barnabas, Basil the Great (of Caesarea), Bede the Venerable , Benedict of Nursia , Boethius, Severinus , Caesarius of Arles , John Cassian , Cassiodorus , Chromatius of Aquileia , Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Rome, Columba of Iona , Commodianus, Cyprian of Carthage, Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Damasus I, Didymus the Blind, Diodore of Tarsus, Dionysius of Corinth, Dionysius of Rome, Dionysius of Alexandria , (Pseudo-)Dionysius the Areopagite, Ephraem the Syrian, Epiphanius of Salamis, Eucherius of Lyon , Eugippius, Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius of Emesa, Eusebius of Vercelli, Evagrius Ponticus (Pamphilius) , Firmilian, Fulgentius of Ruspe, Gaius (Caius) , Gennadius of Massilia, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Tours, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Gregory the Great , Hegesippus of Palestine, Hermias,, Hesychius of Jerusalem, Hilary of Poitiers, Hippolytus of Rome , Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Isaac of Nineveh, Isidore of Pelusium, Isidore of Seville , Jacob of Sarug (Serugh) , Jerome (/Eusebius Hieronymus), John Chrysostom, John Climacus, John of Damascus, Julianus Pomerius, Julius Africanus, Sextus, Justin Martyr, Juvencus, Lactantius, Leo I (Leo the Great), Leontius of Byzantium, Lucian of Antioch, Macarius of Alexandria , Macarius the Great (of Egypt), Malchion, Marius Mercator, Martin of Braga , Martin of Tours, Martyios (Sahdona), Maximus of Turin, Maximus the Confessor , Melitius of Antioch, Melito of Sardis, Methodius of Olympus , (Marcus) Minucius Felix , Moses Khorenac’i , Nectarius of Constantinople, Niceta (Nicetas) of Remesiana, Nilus of Ancyra, Nonnus of Panopolis , Novatian, Oecumenius, Optatus of Milevis ,Origen, Orosius, Pachomius , Pacian of Barcelona, Palladius of Helenopolis , Pamphilus of Caesarea, Pantaenus, Papias, Patrick, Paulinus of Nola, Peter Chrysologus,Peter of Alexandria, Philip of Side, Philoxenus of Mabbug , Polycarp, Proclus of Constantinople, Prosper of Aquitaine, Quadratus of Athens, Quodvultdeus , Rabbula , Romanus (Romanos) Melodus , Rufinus, Tyrannius (of Aquileia), Salvian of Marseilles , Sedulius, Severian of Gabala, Severus of Antioch , Sidonius Apollinaris , Socrates Scholasticus , Sophronius, Sozomen, Sulpicius Severus, Synesius of Cyrene , Tatian, Tertullian, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, Theodotus, Theophilus of Antioch, Tychonius, Valerian of Cemele (Cimiez), Venantius Fortunatus, Victor of Capua, Victorinus of Pettau, Vincent of Lérins, and Zeno of Verona.

Furthermore, the Apostle’s Creed, the rule of Faith found in the early Church, the Nicene Creed, and others affirmed the death of Jesus. Because of these three strands of evidences, William Lane Craig was right to say “Perhaps the single most egregious historical error found in the Qur’an is its claim that Jesus was not in fact crucified. Not only is there not a single shred of evidence in favor of this remarkable hypothesis, but the evidence supporting Jesus’ crucifixion is, as Johnson says, ‘overwhelming.’ Those of you who are Muslims need to appreciate that no one who is not already a Muslim believes that the historical Jesus was not crucified. The crucifixion of Jesus is recognized even by the skeptical critics in the Jesus Seminar as–to quote Robert Funk—‘one indisputable fact.’ Indeed, Paula Frederickson, whose book From Jesus to Christ inspired the PBS special by the same name, declares roundly, ‘The crucifixion is the strongest single fact we have about Jesus.’” Muslims have to give good, historical evidence that is contrary to all of the historical attestations found within the New Testament, the extra biblical support, and all the wealth of evidence from 600 years of Church historians, fathers, monks, and scribes to convince both Christian and non-christian scholars that they’re dead wrong. Simply going to the Quran which was written 600 years after the event will not suffice in the least bit. We need historical evidence- not a religious claim that the Quran is true and all of history is false. The error of denying the crucifixtion is a fatal flaw for the truthfulness of Islam.

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3 responses to “The Bible and the Quran on the Crucifixion

  1. Pingback: The Bible and the Quran on Crucifixion Part Two « Austin's Blog·

  2. Pingback: The Bible and the Quran on the Crucifixion Part Three « Austin's Blog·

  3. Pingback: The Difference Between a Radical Christian and a Radical Muslim | Austin's Blog·

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