Tag Archives: Did Jesus Die?

The Problem of the Thief and the Crucifixion

Introduction

In perhaps what is one of the most perplexing passages of the New Testament, we find a story during the alleged crucifixion of Jesus the Christ that challenges the very core of commonly held Christian beliefs about Christ and salvation. We read from Luke 23:39-43 (NIV) the following:

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The Problem

If we were to ask a confessional Christian today (one that knows of and adheres to the doctrinal confessions of the faith) what one needed to believe in for salvation, we would perhaps have a very long list. It would likely include belief that Jesus died for the sins of all, that Jesus was God, that Jesus was both man and God (belief in the hypostatic union), belief that the New Testament is the word of God, belief in the Godhead, in the Personhood of each member of the Godhead who were all co-equal and co-substantial to each other.

Yet the 5 verses from the Gospel eventually attributed to Luke present a severe theological problem that strikes at the very core of Christian theology. The question before us is, what did the thief say, believe and do to be granted salvation? When we examine the verses we can identify only two things:

  1. That Jesus was an innocent man.
  2. That Jesus was a King (or would become one at some point).

All the thief had to do to be granted salvation was to accept that Jesus was innocent and thus did not deserve to be crucified, and that Jesus would survive in some form such that he would become a king or have a kingdom. By this standard, all Muslims will be granted entry into the kingdom of God. The thief did not have to believe in the New Testament, did not have to accept the Old Testament, did not have to express belief in the Trinity, did not have to believe in the Godhead, did not have to believe in the two natures of Christ, did not have to even accept Jesus as the Messiah! He did not have to believe Jesus was the incarnate word of God, he did not have to believe that Jesus was the 2nd person in the Godhead…in other words, the thief did not have to believe in anything that Christians today hold to be true.

There is perhaps an even greater issue here. The thief claims that Jesus was innocent and thus did not deserve to be punished. See, Christians necessarily believe that while Jesus was innocent, he deserved to suffer and be punished, because he came to suffer for our sins as an act of grace:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV).

“And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” – Luke 9:22 (NIV).

According to the above passages, Christ must suffer and must be killed. However, the thief on the cross, seemingly disagrees with these teachings. The thief explicitly says that not only is Jesus innocent, but that he did not deserve to die. In other words, the thief is expressing an Islamic position that Muslims would agree with. Jesus did not deserve to die, he did not deserve to suffer and he was an innocent man. In other words, Jesus rewards a thief and claims the thief would be in the Kingdom of God with him because he denied the core tenets of Christianity while affirming core beliefs of Islam.

The thief in no uncertain words explains that his crucifixion on the cross is justified, but Jesus’s isn’t, however, confessional Christians would argue that in order for sin to be paid, it had to be justified through the death of Jesus the Christ. This presents a problem for Christianity. Jesus rewards a man and accepts him into the Kingdom of God for expressively, clearly and absolutely, rejecting core Christian beliefs about salvation!

Comments by Scholars

These 5 verses deliver a devastating blow to the consistency of the doctrine of salvation in Christianity. These verses essentially approve of Islamic beliefs and indicate that Muslims according to Jesus…would be in the Kingdom of God, since we believe that he was innocent and that the alleged crucifixion was not justified in any way. These are things a Christian today cannot deny, these are things a Christian today has to believe in, yet a thief with Islamic beliefs only accepted two tenets, both of which agree with core Islamic beliefs, and was rewarded and praised by Jesus! The scholars have had difficulty in understanding these passages. It must first be noted that only one Gospel records this incident and this is the Gospel of Luke:

“Luke’s account is noticeably independent of the other three. The three sayings of Christ’s, round which his narrative is grouped, are preserved by him alone. We shall best grasp the dominant impression which the Evangelist unconsciously had himself received, and sought to convey, by gathering the whole round these three words from the Cross.” – MacLaren’s Expositions.

The other three Gospels are noticeably silent on the thieves, except for the case of demonizing them:

“In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” – Matthew 27:44 (NIV).

“Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” – Mark 15:32 (NIV).

The final Gospel, later attributed to John (which John, we don’t know), does not mention any of the words of the thieves, it does not even identify them as thieves or rebels. Instead, this is all the Gospel as to say:

“The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.” – John 19:32 (NIV).

Resolving the Problem

Some Christian commentators (exegetes) have attempted to navigate around this narrative disaster by implying that the thief/ rebel had other beliefs, that he believed Jesus was a God or that Jesus was meant to die for his sins and thus was saved because of this. The problem with such an argument is that the only Gospel to mention this incident does not indicate any of these things. The Gospel does not indicate that the thief/ rebel believed in anything other than what was recorded. In other words, this is a poor attempt at reading between the lines and should therefore be rejected. If scripture is sufficient for understanding salvation, then the plain reading of these 5 passages should be accepted without having a need to insert anything into scripture, to force it to say something it does not.

Conclusion

These five passages are a disaster for any Christian who takes their faith seriously. Every core tenet that one needs to believe in to be considered a confessional Christian is necessarily discarded by the thief and approved of by Jesus himself. In fact, the very beliefs that Jesus was an innocent man and did not deserve to die, that his death is unjustifiable is an Islamic belief. Thus, there are two arguments to be claimed here:

  1. According to Jesus, all one has to do to be granted entry into the Kingdom of God is to accept that Jesus is innocent and that his death was unjustified (which affirms Islam’s beliefs about Jesus). Therefore the beliefs of most Christians have been deemed unnecessary and useless by Jesus himself.
  2.  That belief in Jesus dying for the sins of the world is unjustified and that Jesus affirms this, thereby establishing that him dying does not acquit us of our sins (essentially refuting core Christian beliefs about the purpose behind Jesus’s death in the first place).

May God guide our Christian brothers and sisters to the truth of Jesus the Christ, which is to the Oneness of God.

and Allah knows best.

Debate Release: What is the True Faith of Jesus’ Disciples – Br. Ijaz vs Rev. Steven Martins

We’re happy to announce that the first debate between myself and Rev. Steven has been published online. The topic, “What is the True Faith of Jesus’ Disciples?,” featured a lot of discussion on the early Christology of the proto-orthodox Christian tradition. There was also discussion on the New Testament manuscript tradition however the Reverend chose not to pursue that course of argument (I had with me several papyrological studies on hand but the debate did not follow that path). The claim that the disciples were eyewitnesses or the authors of the NT textual tradition was deeply discussed and the Reverend makes quite the statement during the debate, “it’s all hypothetical!,” which then led to some even more interesting remarks.

I focused on the chains of transmission as claimed by Church tradition, and examined them in light of the deutero-canonical traditions, the results would surprise many. I also compared and contrasted several “claims” by the early Church fathers as to from whom they took their testimony from about Christ, which led to quite a major contradiction given Papias’ witness. All in all, this was an extremely enjoyable debate and the audio is 100% clear. Again, I’d like to thank Br. Haseeb from IBN for the recording, Br. Asad (of Motorway Hall) and the MYTT for hosting the event, Br. Nazam for stitching the video together and then uploading to his channel, Pastor Kris for moderating the event and especially Rev. Steven for being my gracious interlocutor. The event was extremely well attended and I must thank the community for their participation.

Enjoy the recording!

and Allah knows best.

 

Debate: James White vs Sami Zataari, “Was Christ Crucified?” – Video

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

MDI has finally released their video of Sami’s debate with James. For a quick review, if you’ve ever heard James speak, then expect nothing new from him. Sami responded well, kept up with James, easily nullified James’ arguments and ran rings around the Alpha and Omega Ministry man:

wa Allaahu Alam,
and Allaah knows best.

Easter: Contradictions in the Gospel Narratives

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

Easter has arrived again, the Christian narrative of Jesus being arrested, crucified, dying and then ascending all occurs from Good Friday to Sunday morning, these few days are the foundation for the Christian religion. The Gospels account for this episode, giving us details which are rather unique and quite puzzling, or so to speak. In this article, I’m not going to try to offend anyone and I do apologize if I do, but as a Muslim, these questions are pertinent to the narrative given to these events by the Christian faith. We need to examine the foundation, for if the foundation is based on falsehood, all that is derived from it, will also have falsehood in contained within. Therefore, in an attempt to seek answers for these dogmatic conundrums, let’s ask some questions that should by now, some 2000 years or so years later, should have answers prepared.

Zombies:
Here we have an account in Matthew 27:51-53, where apparently the dead come back to life, and in their large numbers, roam through the streets of Jerusalem. There’s a slight problem with this claim however.  Dead people have crawled out of graves in Jerusalem, seen by ‘many people’, and yet the only account of it, is some 50 or so years later in a religious scripture from a new faith, fishing for miracles to get converts. So let’s see what the scripture claims:

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split  and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

So dead people came back to life. This is a miracle proving Jesus’ resurrection, this miracle is apparently witnessed by many people and yet we have some serious discrepancies here. No other Gospel of Epistles even references or mentions explicitly, what is arguably the greatest miracle one can observe, dead people returning to life. No Jewish historian or religious figure ever mentions that dead people came back to life and roamed their holiest city’s streets. Not even the Romans, the largest Empire, most powerful nation at that time, records that dead people came back to life and roamed their streets. Yet somehow, a person not from that time, 50 or so years later (33AD, Ascension, Matthew written between 75 AD – 99 AD), mentions this maybe two or three lines and then it turns into a historical fact. Call me skeptical, but I’m needing evidence here. I find it hard to believe, that dead people, came to life and no one at that time, not even heretical early Christian sects, nor Paul who documented the vast prayers, actions and beliefs of the early Church some 14 years later, remotely mentions or references it.

Yet, us Muslims are not to be blamed, a famed Christian Exegete, Adam Clarke in his exegesis on these verses states:

It is difficult to account for the transaction mentioned Matthew 27:52,53. Some have thought that these two verses have been introduced into the text of Matthew from the gospel of the Nazarenes; others think that the simple meaning is this:-by the earthquake several bodies that had been buried were thrown up and exposed to view, and continued above ground till after Christ’s resurrection, and were seen by many persons in the city. Why the graves should be opened on Friday, and the bodies not be raised to life till the following Sunday, is difficult to be conceived. The place is extremely obscure. 

Perhaps there is someone willing to validate, verify this claim or if not, admit it really did not occur and is a fanciful dream of some scribe wanting to give the masses some alleged miracle to convert to Christianity for.

Conflicting Post-Crufiction Narrative:
This question stems from reading the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, evidently, if one picks up a Bible, the New Testament begins with Matthew and then we’re introduced to Mark. The problem here however, stems from an incident that presents a problem. In Matthew 28:5-10, we read:

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

So from this, we deduce that:

  • Some women met an angel.
  • They don’t worship the angel.
  • They were afraid, yet they ran to tell the disciples.
  • They meet Jesus who tells them to go to Galilee.

Yet, we read in Mark, a successive Gospel, a completely different story, Mark 16:5-8:

“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

  • Some women met a young man in white clothes and not an angel.
  • They don’t worship the young man.
  • They were afraid and said nothing to anyone.
  • Never met Jesus, instead the angel tells them to go to Galilee.

In fact, if we read the next Gospel in succession, that is, Luke, we have another completely different account. We read from Luke 24:4-8:

 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.

  • Some women did not meet an angel, nor a young man, but instead two men in clothes as bright as lightning.
  • Instead of not worshipping the angel or a young man, they worship two men.
  • They were afraid, but instead of telling no one, they told everyone.
  • Never met Jesus, but instead two men tell them to go to Galilee.

Continuing to the final Gospel, that of John, in Chapter 20, Verses 11-19, we read:

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”  “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

  • One woman, Mary,  did not meet an angel or a young man or two men but instead two angels.
  • She did not worship the two angels.
  • She told everyone what she saw, in contrast to the other Gospels.
  • Met Jesus who does not tell her to go to Galilee. 
  • Jesus does not meet them at Galilee but at a house in/ near Jerusalem.

Some like to say that we’ve misunderstood their scripture, some say we’ve distorted and manipulated the truth, but all we’ve really done is read the Gospels, as they are laid out. Anyone can pick up a Bible and read these contradicting narratives. In fact, I’ve linked all the relevant chapters to a popular Christian Bible website and I do hope that anyone who comes across this article, tries to investigate it for themselves.

In conclusion, I’d like to give a quote which sums up the Muslim perspective of this incident, Mary and the other female disciples go to tell the men what has happened, this quote being from the Gospel of Luke:

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 

As is the Muslim view, the men’s response is practically priceless:

But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

As we end, one more relevant quote from the same Gospel:

 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Which fulfills the Islamic narrative, from the Qur’an which states:

“And because they denied and spoke dreadful calumnies of Mary; and for saying: “We killed the Christ, Jesus, son of Mary, who was an apostle of God;” but they neither killed nor crucified him, though it so appeared to them. Those who disagree in the matter are only lost in doubt. They have no knowledge about it other than conjecture, for surely they did not kill him, But God raised him up (in position) and closer to Himself; and God is all-mighty and all-wise.”

wa Allaahu Alam.
[and God knows best.]