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Islam and the Resurrection
By Gary F. Zeolla
The Koran (or Quran) is the holy book of the Muslims. It was written after the death of Mohammed in 632 AD by his disciples who had memorized his teachings.
Sura 4:154-158 contains the following statement:
They denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood against Mary. They declared, "We have put to death the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah. They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did. Those who disagreed about him were in doubt concerning his death, for what they knew about it was sheer conjecture; they were not sure they had slain him. Allah lifted him up to his presence (The Koran, p.382).
Muslim commentators are divided as to what these verses mean. However, one thing is clear, the Koran denies Jesus died on the cross. "Therefore, the Bible and the Koran clearly contradict each other on this issue" (McDowell, Islam, p.105). Muslim commentators have put forth two possibilities as to how Jesus escaped death on the cross. Both of these ideas have been suggested by others besides Muslims. They are the swoon and the substitution theories.
This theory states that Jesus never really died. Instead, it is claimed, He just swooned on the cross and in the coolness of the tomb revived. First, "This is a theory of modern construction .... All of the earliest records are emphatic about Jesus death" (Little, pp.26f). Keep in mind, the Koran was not written until 600 years after the time of Christ; whereas, the Gospels were all written in the first century.
Second, even if Jesus had been still alive when He was taken off the cross, the chance for His survival would have been slim. In 66 AD Josephus, "Discovered three of his friends being crucified. He asked the Roman general Titus to reprieve them, and they were immediately removed from their crosses. Still two of the three died any way" (McDowell, Resurrection, p.49).
Compare this situation with that of Jesus. Jesus was scourged before He was crucified (Matt 27:26). Before being taken down, He had been on the cross for six hours and had a sword shoved in His side (Mark 15:25,33; John 19:34). Jesus was then laid alone in a tomb and a guard placed outside (Matt 27:57-65).
Given the cruelty of Roman crucifixion and these added difficulties:
Is it possible to believe that he would have survived three days in a damp tomb without food or water or attention of any kind? Would he have survived being wound in spice-laden grave clothes? Would he have had the strength to extricate himself from the grave clothes, push the heavy stone away from the mouth of the grave, overcome the Roman guards, and walk miles on feet that had been pierced with spikes? (Little, p.27).
After all this, are we to believe, "He could appear to the disciples in such a way as to give them the impression that he vanquished death?" (McDowell, Evidence, p.234).
"Finally, if Christ did not die at this time, then when did He die and under what circumstances?" (McDowell, Islam, p.124). All records of the life of Jesus from the time end with the ascension.
Some orthodox Muslims have proposed, "...God made someone else look like Jesus and that this person was crucified instead" (McDowell, Islam, p.107). Others have also made similar proposals (Baigent, p.379). First, this idea has God involved in fraud and Jesus agreeing to the deception. This contradicts their known characters.
Second, Jesus was seen by thousands during his ministry. Surely someone would have noticed that the wrong man was being crucified. Also, Jesus' mother stood at the foot of the cross (John 19:25). Surely a woman can recognize her own son!
Third, if the wrong man was crucified, he "... would have raged from the cross that he was not Jesus ..." (McDowell, Islam, p.107). Yet, no such cries are recorded by the eye-witnesses.
Fourth, this theory also ignores the question of the empty tomb and the nature of the resurrection appearances. Jesus said to have appeared to the disciples behind closed doors and disappear at will (John 20:19; Luke 24:31).
Fifth, as with the swoon theory, it also ignores the question of what happened to Jesus after 30 AD.
Sixth, this proposal has God killing an innocent bystander. Some Muslims have attempted to evade this problem by saying Judas was the victim (McDowell, Islam, p.107). But this idea contradicts Matthew's statement that Judas committed suicide (Matt 27:3-10). And the question must be asked, "Who is the more reliable historian -- Matthew, an eye-witness, or Mohammed, who lived centuries later?"
Lastly, this theory was not invented until the seventh century. It is merely an attempt to explain an ambiguous statement in the Koran.
The above article was excerpted from the two-part article What Happened in 30 AD?.
Bibliography (for Parts One and Two):
All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.
Baigent, Michael, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Holy Blood; Holy Grail. New York, NY: Dell Publ., 1983.
Josephus, Flavius. "Antiquities of the Jews", in Complete Works. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1981.
The Koran. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1974.
McDowell, Josh. The Islam Debate. San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1983.
The Resurrection Factor. San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1981.
Islam and the Resurrection Copyright © 2002 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).
The above article was posted on this Web site May 4, 2002.
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