A reply to a Muslim – the Deity and Death of Jesus


A while back, a Muslim (Paasurrey) posted a comment on my site addressing some of the problems He saw with the Christian belief concerning Jesus. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the comment until yesterday. For whatever reason, it slipped through the cracks.

To make up for this, I am posting my response here and posting a link of my response on Paasurrey’s own site so he knows that I have responded to him. Though this is meant for him, I am making it public so anyone who has questions about Christ can hopefully find answers.

Paasurrey,

Assalamu alaikum. I hope this response finds you well.

I apologize for not responding sooner (over a year) as I never saw your comment until the other day. I have done my best to offer a concise reply to your objections. Please let me know what you think. I look forward to friendly dialogue with you on this issue. I have put what you said in quotes so you know what I am responding to when I write.

“I respect your religion; but I have my own free opinion. I think it to be too cruel for a father (God) to sacrifice/kill his beloved one (son) for others imaginary sins.”

If this were done against the will of Christ, then I would agree that it would be cruel. However, Jesus is part of the Godhead (we’ll get to that), thus as being God He planned on sacrificing Himself from before He even created the world, and as being a person in the Godhead, He willingly went to the cross.

Though He did ask for an alternative measure the night of His capture, He also said, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” Thus, Christ went willingly to the cross, which makes the claim of God’s “cruelty” a bit suspect.

Furthermore, sins are not imaginary. They are offenses to God. God, being infinitely good, takes our offenses against His will seriously. Any violation of His goodness is likewise infinite – how can temporal beings possibly pay off a debt that is infinite? This is why Christ died – only an eternal being can settle an eternal debt (amongst other things; this is not the only reason Christ died, but one of the biggest reasons).

The philosopher Abu Nasr al-Farabi wrote in his book al-Madinah al Fadilah (Virtuous City) that the “First Being” (God: al-Awwal) is perfect. So it is common between Christians and Muslims to agree that God is a perfect being and eternal (the “most ancient” as al-Farabi describes Him). He is likewise a person, meaning He can have offenses against Him. Any offense against Him would subsequently be eternal as God is eternal. The remedy for such a thing would also have to be eternal.

“The truth, in my opinion, is that Jesus was not God; he never proclaimed as such, there are no direct quotes from him in this regards. God talked with Jesus and revealed His word on him, He chose Jesus his Messenger/Prophet/Messiah, Jesus was not a son of God.”

Ah, but He most certainly did make the claim that He was God. Though He never goes throughout ancient Israel saying, “Hey, I’m God,” He does many things and says many things that assert His claim to divinity – and the Pharisees noticed it. Let us look at some of the evidence:

1)   If Jesus never made the claim to divinity, why did His followers attribute it to Him so early after His death? Many scholars, such as Larry Hurtado and Martin Hengel, have shown that the claim of Jesus’ divinity by His followers dates back to within 20 years of Jesus’ death. Why would His followers make such a claim when they knew that such a claim would lead to their persecution?

2)   Why did the Pharisees seek to kill Jesus? There were many other people who claimed to be Messiah before and after Jesus, but who also faced little opposition from the Pharisees (but major opposition from the Roman government in some instances). Jesus is the only known person to claim to be Messiah who (a) faced major opposition from the Pharisees, (b) was of little notice to the Roman government as He laid no claim to earthly leadership, and (c) who’s claims stuck long after He died. Why is this?

3)   Playing on the above, had Jesus not taught He was God or the Messiah, then why did His followers think to add this title to Him? Moses led far more people into the wilderness and performed greater miracles, yet no diety or “messiahship” was applied to him. Why did Jesus and Jesus alone get this exclusive treatment among the prophets?

4)   When John the Baptist asks Jesus via letter if He is the one they have been waiting for (i.e. the Messiah), Jesus responds with all the signs and wonders He has performed.

5)   Jesus was so bold as to claim to be the King of Israel. In every single account of Christ, we read of Him walking. In only one account does He ride a donkey (Mark 11:1-11). Why is this significant? Because the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10 states that the future King of Israel – the Messiah – shall ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. To collaborate the evidence above, the sign above His head on the cross was “King of the Jews,” something His followers never called Him while He was alive or after He had gone on. Christians have never called Him this, so it makes little sense that “King of the Jews” was ascribed to Him later on and added into the text. Rather, it makes far more sense that “King of the Jews” was a charge against Him (as this is the only way the Pharisees could have had the Roman authorities kill Him; for rebellion) and as evidence they used His triumphal entry. This event, from a historical test, occurred, meaning that Jesus deliberately made Himself to look like the final King of Israel.

6)   Under Jewish thinking, only God could build the temple (Exodus 15:17, Jubilee 1:17) and the only one who could threaten to destroy the temple (Jeremiah 7:12-13, 1 Enoch 90:28-29). Jesus, being a Jew, would have been fully aware of this. Thus, when He states that He will destroy and rebuild the temple in three days (Mark 14:58), He is making Himself equal with God.

7)   In the very least, Jesus did not view Himself as equal to all the other prophets; He thought of Himself as above them. Jesus’ parable of the wicked workers of the vineyard (Mark 12:1-9) is interesting. In this parable, tenets of the owner come to collect the fruit and money from the workers. But the workers beat and reject the tenets. Finally, the owner’s son comes and they kill the son. Notice how in this parable, Jesus represents Himself as the son and the tenets as the prophets. He separates Himself from the other prophets – they are not related to the owner while He is. This shows He is placing Himself equal with God in that He has the inheritance of the Father.

8)   Matthew 11:27 says that we can only know the Father through the Son (Jesus Christ). If this is the case, then Christ serves as a “window” to the Father, meaning the Son isn’t just human; He must also be divine. Though it is common for Muslim apologists to say that this was later added into the text, this passage passes the tests of history. For one, it is a very common saying found in early manuscripts. The Greek versions actually give away that they are translated from Aramaic, meaning the saying was originally composed in Aramaic, making it extremely authentic. We also know from later readings in the Scriptures (most noticeably Philemon 3:8-11) that the Christians believed anyone could know the Father through the Son. It was accepted. Yet in the Gospel presentation, this is presented as a novel idea. This betrays that when the saying was composed, or the period of the saying, such a concept was new. This means that Jesus actually said that and thus put Himself on equal footing with God.

9)   Jesus never once said, “Thus says the Lord,” but rather said, “I tell you.” Most prophets, when making an authoritative declaration, would always call upon the name of the Lord. Why is this? Because they were merely human. Christ, however, would say, “I tell you.” Why is this? Because, though human, He was also divine and thus capable of making authoritative declarations.

10) He contrasted himself with Moses by actually changing the law. In Matthew 5:31-32 He explains why Moses allowed certain laws for divorce, but He turns around and changes the law. Under what authority could He do this if He were only a man?

Now, there are far more proofs, but I wanted to use the most obvious ones that cannot be questioned historically. We cannot say these proofs are corrupted because almost all true historians – even those who are agnostic or believe that Jesus was merely a good man – accept these are historical truths. To say, “The Christians added to the text” might be convenient in order to throw out the argument, but it lacks the historical validation necessary to be an adequate argument.

Likewise, Muslims run into quite a few problems when they use that excuse. We hear that the Jews corrupted the Old Testament, thus God gave us the New Testament, but the Christians turned around and corrupted it as well. Thus, we end up with the Qur’an. But this poses a problem – how do we know that the early Arabs or even the Persians didn’t corrupt the Qur’an? We can say, “God protected it,” but if He protects the Qur’an, why was He so inept at protecting the Old and New Testaments?

Thus, the Muslim apologist is thrown into a quandary – if God had Gabriel recite the Qur’an to the Prophet due to the corruption of the Old and New Testaments, what promise do we have that the Qur’an is not likewise corrupted? Alternatively, if God has preserved the Qur’an, why wouldn’t He preserve the Old and New Testaments? Finally, if He did preserve the Old and New Testaments (an argument I’m not sure you would make as both the Qur’an and Hadith claim the Testaments are corrupted), why the need for the Qur’an? So before you use the argument of corruption, I think you would need to deal with these issues.

“Jews did not believe that Jesus was a true Moshiach or Prophet of God and to prove that they tried to kill him by putting him on cross, Jesus became unconscious due to the injuries inflicted on him. He was delivered from cross alive and placed in a room like tomb where he was treated for the injuries.

This was done secretly lest the Jews again torture him. Afterwards, he went to spread the gospel to the remaining ten tribes of the House of Israel, he died a natural death later at some point in the history. This is all truth in my opinion.”

This makes for good fiction, but it’s not good history. Let’s break your arguments down and deal with them:

1)   “To prove Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, the Jews killed Him.”

What a way to prove a point! Unfortunately, history doesn’t substantiate such a claim. For one, there were others who claimed to be the Messiah. All were rejected because they didn’t meet certain criteria (most notably they lacked any proper signs).

When one religious Jew – John the Baptist – did ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus pointed to the signs. This would have been empty rhetoric unless the Jews expected such signs. Thus, the Pharisees could have simply tested His miracles.

The issue becomes clearer when we see that Jesus was put to death under a Roman execution. Jewish executions at the time involved stoning people to death (and this was attempted after Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” – another reference to Jesus claiming to be God), not crucifying them. In order for the Jews to crucify Jesus, they would have needed to come up with a charge that the Romans could crucify Him for. They found this in His claim to being a king.

Notice how in His trial before the Sanhedrin He is accused of blasphemy because He claimed to be God. He is not charged as a test; He is charged because He was claiming to be God. Yet, before Pilate, the Jews change their tone and say that He contests Caesar’s authority. The reason they do this is that the Romans could care less if some Jew claimed to be the Jewish God; but they would care if that same Jew posed a threat to Roman authority.

Simply put, the Romans wouldn’t kill Jesus as a test. They would kill Him because He posed a threat. The Jews wouldn’t kill Jesus as a test because they could simply look to His miracles. They would, however, kill Him if He claimed to be God. So the argument just doesn’t work when we look at the history of the situation.

2)   “Jesus merely passed out on the cross and was later resuscitated.”

This is another one of those issues that just doesn’t work when examined historically. If we look to how crucifixions were done, we can see there is no possible way that Jesus left the cross alive (or anyone who was ever crucified). Here are the reasons we know that Jesus was dead when He left the cross and why He didn’t simply pass out:

(a) Jesus endured a severe flogging before His placement on the cross – Due to the flogging methods of the time (bone and iron on the end of a whip), His flesh would have been torn from His body. Add to the fact that thorns were placed on His head, which would have caused a head wound and head wounds bleed profusely, He would have lost a significant amount of blood before the crucifixion. Though His resurrection is a miracle, it is also a miracle that He even made it to the cross considering the amount of blood He would have lost.

(b) Flogging aside, the Romans didn’t take live bodies off of the cross – Without going into too much detail, most victims on the cross died of suffocation. The way the arms and legs are positioned on the Latin cross force a victim to eventually suffocate. When he lifts himself up to take a breath the nail in his feet rip his skin, causing immense pain, discouraging him from the act. Eventually, due to blood loss, the victim becomes too weak to lift himself, to the point all of his weight is put on his lungs, causing suffocation.

In the case of Christ, with all the blood loss He would have been much weaker to begin with. The Gospels record that due to the storm, the Roman guards went around and broke the legs of the other two victims that day. The Romans did this to induce immediate suffocation. They didn’t break the legs of Christ because He was already dead. To test the belief that He was dead, they thrust a spear into His side. These were professional soldiers who has seen battles; they knew a dead body when they saw one. They weren’t about to take a live human being down from the cross – besides, the chances of Jesus being alive after enduring the flogging, the suffocating effects of the cross, additional blood loss from the nails in His hands and feet, and the spear thrust into His side are extremely small.

(c)  Even if Christ had survived and the guards were deceived, He would have died after being taken off the cross – Due to the blood loss that certainly would have followed from his flogging and being on the cross, Christ would have died sometime within those three days of being in the tomb. Even with modern medicine, a patient in such a condition would most likely not live. The reason is that we wouldn’t be able to stop the blood flow. With so many wounds, it would be impossible to stop the blood flow. Even today, in 2009, Jesus Christ would die after being taken off the cross due to loss of blood. There’s no way He would have been able to live given the medical equipment of that day.

(d) Even if the blood flow stopped, He would have died from an infection – If the followers of Jesus somehow stopped the blood flow from multiple towels, He would have died a few days later from infection. Towels back then certainly weren’t sanitized, meaning they carried bacteria with them. Though a person could be stabbed a few times or be shot with an arrow, the greater the wound (or the more multiple the wound), the more likely infection would set in.

Christ had an open back (to the point you could have seen muscles, bones, and possibly some internal organs) from the flogging, open wounds in His hands (too big and gauged to heal properly – had He lived, He would have always had holes in His hands and feet), a spear gash in His side, and cuts on His head from the six inch thorns. There is no getting around it – had Christ not bled out, He would have died from an infection.

In other words, for Jesus to have lived a long and happy life after the attempted crucifixion, He would have had to not lose massive amounts of blood from the flogging, have fooled the Roman guards (and passed out without suffocating since He wouldn’t have been able to lift Himself up to breath), have survived being stabbed in His side by a Roman spear, have not bled out, and avoided infection even though He would have had permanent open sores from the nails. This is an impossible amount of events to accomplish. The most common sense view is that Jesus actually died on the cross.

You – being a Muslim – and I – being a Christian – both agree that a historical Jesus existed and that He was placed in the tomb. I hope I have adequately shown that He didn’t pass out. There is simply no medical way for Him to have passed out and gone on to live a good life. He died on that cross. If He didn’t die, then He would have appeared again as proof that God was protecting Him. After all, He would be the first human being in history to have survived Roman flogging and crucifixion! No one else in history can make that claim, so it would make sense for the followers of Jesus to use His survival as a way to show that God protected him.

The actual resurrection of Jesus makes the most sense in attempting to explain the empty tomb of Christ. I didn’t even get into how He could have escaped the tomb while so weak, how He followers would have recognized Him, why they made the claim He rose again, or many of the other weaknesses in the “feign” explanation. Suffice it to say, such a theory is completely illogical. Since you believe He was put on the cross and that His followers admit to seeing Him after He was placed in the tomb, the most logical explanation is that God raised Him from the dead.

I look forward to your reply. Khuda hafiz.

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