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The Crucifixion Tale: Contradictions And Problems

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Difficulties, Contradictions and Problems in the Crucifixion tale

by Ibn Anwar

".but they killed him not, nor crucified him."(Qur'an 4:157)



Jesus' Crucifixion is the bedrock of mainstream Christianity. It is such an important foundation in Christianity that even sects that have departed from "Orthodoxy" such as Unitarianism and the Jehovah's Witness have retained the crucifixion. Paul says, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Cor. 15:14). Without crucifixion there is no resurrection. Because the preaching of Christianity is based on the resurrection it goes without saying that the crucifixion is equally significant and important which is why the official symbol in mainstream Christianity is the cross.

It is often claimed in Evangelical circles and by Christian missionaries that there is a consensus among scholars and historians both conservative and liberal that Jesus certainly died on the cross. This is misleading. There are scholars who argue that because there is such a paucity in early reliable historical records attesting to Jesus' existence that must mean that he is a myth, a legend, a fiction. Granted that the circle of scholars of this persuasian is small in number that does not discount the fact that they exist. Tom Harpur who was professor of New Testament and New Testament Greek at Wycliffe(The Pagan Christ), Bruno Bauer (Critique of the Gospels and History of Their Origin), Earl Doherty(The Jesus Puzzle), Prof. G.A. Wells(The Historical Evidence for Jesus), Prof. Michael Martin(The Case Against Christianity) are some of the scholars who have questioned Jesus' existence. Thus to continue claiming that all scholars both liberal and conservative agree on the crucifixion is untrue. Undoubtedly, a vast majority of scholars say the crucifixion happened, but not without serious qualification. They do not say it as a fact, but rather as a probable occurence. Historians involved in this area of study base their judgment on probabilities rather than conclusive historical data. Using the historical method scholars comb through available historical materials, assess them and thereafter produce what they think to be the most probable conclusion. Historians using the critical historical method do not recognise supernatural events because they are the least probable occurences which is why God cannot be in the equation hence discounting both resurrection and Jesus' ascent to heaven as historical(at least according to the historical method). A person living 2000 years ago would be regarded as dead because it is highly improbable(or impossible) for a man to live that long. Because Jesus lived around 2000 years ago historians conclude that he must have died. This is of course according to the critical historical method. The real question that historians are interested in is how he died. And for this they look at the historical records surrounding the person Jesus. According to their perspective based on their research the most probable explanation or cause for Jesus' death is the crucifixion. Thus many modern (non-Muslim) historians have no qualms over Jesus' death itself not because they think that Jesus was factually and definitely crucified but because a man living 2000 years ago cannot still be alive. In this article we will be looking closely at some of those major data and sources used to propose that Jesus died by crucifixion. God willing, we will illustrate by proposing nine contentions(using historical and theological arguments) that the historical material employed are insufficient in proving the crucifixion and that Jesus certainly did not die the shameful death of a crucified man.

How much do we know about Jesus? As we have mentioned before there is a paucity of material.

"However desirable it might be to have available records of Jesus' words and deeds that were made during his lifetime, we must acknowledge that we have none."[1] (emphasis added)

"Reliable knowledge of Jesus, his life and teaching, is limited. The years of his adolescence and young manhood are shrouded in silence, and his active ministry of not over two or three years is treated only briefly in the Gospels. There are only four short accounts of Jesus' ministry, and these record what people though of his as well as what he did and taught. Beyond the narrative of his teachings and actions nothing is known of his personality, physical appearance, or bearing that might account for the remarkable charismatic power which he held over his disciples and the masses who at one time followed him." [2] (emphasis added)
 


Contention 1: The passion narratives are inconsistent which means they cannot be trusted.



If one were to compare the four gospels analytically one will find that there are many inconsistencies between the narratives given in the gospels. However, in fairness it should be noted that there are fewer contradictions between Matthew and Mark. Some stories are found in one or two of the gospels but not in the others for example Jesus being troubled is mentioned in Matthew and Mark, but not in Luke and John. The excuse given by apologists is that the authors simply did not mention them(or were not aware of its occurence) and this does not actually give rise to contradiction. This excuse is untenable when the Gospels and external historical evidence are studied carefully. Nevertheless, they would argue that in general there are many similarities between the passion narratives in the four Gospels. That's all fine. But what about those serious discrepencies that we do find in the Gospels? Can two conflicting stories presented in two different books be equally and simultaneously true? According to Christian apologists they can. What they will do is try to harmonise the conflicting stories by building a new story where both are included into one story with some modifications here and there. Is this a legitimate recourse? The eminent Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman, the prodige of one of the greatest New Testament scholars of America Bruce Metzger in Misquoting Jesus and Jesus Interrupted says that such a course of action does injustice to the gospels. Harmonising the conflicting gospel accounts does violence to what the authors and their work intend and convey. Each author wrote with a specific intention in mind and a specific audience in sight hence mixing and mashing one author's narrative with the other is unjustified. By doing such a thing they are in reality reconstructing a gospel that none of the gospel writers had in mind. By doing such a thing they have in reality introduced a new gospel. Let us now consider some of those contradictions.

1. When was Jesus arrested? Was it on the Passover or before it?

The four Gospels place the crucifixion on a Friday (Mark 15:42, Matthew 27:62, Luke 23:54 and John 19:31), however John departs from the synoptics(Matthew, Mark and Luke) in that the incident occured on the day of rest of the Passover, that is one day earlier. The Synoptics on the other hand asserts that the Friday on which the crucifixion happened was the first day of the Passover. Jewish law stipulates that the lamb of the Passover should be slaughtered in the evening of the 14th of the first month of the Jewish calender, Nisan. The lamb is then eaten on the same night as mentioned in Exodus 12:1-8). Based on Genesis 1:5 the Jews measure a day as that from sunset to sunset. So that means the night of the Passover is the start of the 15th of Nisan. According to the synoptics Jesus was arrested after having the Passover meal with his disciples which was the first night of the first day of the Passover (Mark 14:12-46, Matthew 26:19-50 and Luke 22:7-54). He was then crucified in the morning of the 15th of Nisan.

John on the other hand has it that Jesus was arrested and taken to Pilate early in the morning of the day of rest of the Passover which means that he was arrested the night before (john 18:28). The crucifixion then according to John's timeline should be placed on the 14th of Nisan some hours after the arrest. Thus according to John the day of the crucifixion was the Friday during the day of the rest of the Passover as opposed to the synoptics that place it on the first day of the feast. In conclusion, John's arrest and crucifixion is a day earlier than the synoptics version. There is a reason why John has made the crucifixion coincide with the time of the slaughter of Passover lambs. John's account is theologically motivated. He presents Jesus in the first chapter of his book as the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29 and 1:36). John wishes to pass Jesus off as the true Passover lamb. He makes Jesus fulfill a prophecy (John 19:36) with a description that the Old Testament uses for the Passover lamb. Because John's timeline corresponds intimately with his Crucifixion theology some scholars have been led to dismiss his narrative as fiction. [3]

2. How many Passovers were there? Was it one or three?

Whilst the synoptics mention only one Passover that is the one during which Jesus was crucified John deviates as mentions two extra Passovers (John 2:13, 2:23 and 6:4).

3. When was Jesus' trial? Was it at night or in the morning?

Both Matthew and Mark agree that Jesus was arrested and put on trial before the Jewish council at night (Matthew 26:31-57 and Mark 14:30-53. John asserts the same in John 18:28. Luke on the other hand departs from them and says that the trial was in the morning in Luke 22:66.

4. Who questioned Jesus? Was it the Sanhedrin or the high priest?

According to Mark 14:53-55 and Matthew 26:57-59 it was the Sanhedrin who tried Jesus in the house of the high priest, Caiaphas. Who were the Sanhedrin? The Sanhedrin was a Jewish council that dealt with religious and Jewish legal matters consisting of 71 members. How is it that 71 people fitted in Caiaphas' house 2000 years ago is a mystery to me. Perhaps he lived in a palatial palace? Luke 22:66 says, "At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them." One can understand from this that Luke may very well be referring to the Sanhedrin as Matthew and Mark does. But John departing from the synoptics claims that Jesus was first brought to the house of Annas, "Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year."(John 18:12-13) Only after he had been interrogated by Annas that he was then taken to Caiaphas(John 18:24). There are mutiple problems with these narratives. Firstly, the Sanhedrin is totally missing in John's account even though he says earlier in John 11:47-53 that Caiaphas led the Sanhedrin in planning to kill Jesus. If John saw it fit to mention the Sanhedrin's plan to kill him why not mention it also when Jesus was interrogated? The question then is was Jesus ever tried by the Sanhedrin as claimed by the synoptics? Who's telling the truth? The second problem that we find is that two high priests(kohen gadol) are mentioned together namely, Annas and Caiaphas. Annas is addressed as the high priest repeatedly in John 18:15-22 amd in the same passage in verse 24 Caiaphas is described as the high priest. This cannot be true because the Old Testament , Josephus, Philo and Rabbinic material all agree that the position of high priest can be occupied by one person only at any one time. Further more, the eminent authority in Jewish studies, Geza Vermes says that John's claim in John 11:49,51 and John 18:13 that the high priesthood went through annual rotations is unhistorical.[4]

5. Who sentenced Jesus to capital punishment?

Matthew 26:66, Mark 14:64, Luke 24:20 and Acts 13:27 says that the Sanhedrin passed the death penalty on Jesus implying that they have the capacity to sentence someone to die. John departs from that and makes it clear that the Sanhedrin and the Jews in general have no legal power at all to put someone to death, "Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.' The Jews said to him, ?It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.'"(John 18:31) Looking at that verse carefully another problem arises. How is it that Pilate the Roman prefect who had been ruling the Jews for around four years and responsible for legal affairs did not even know that the Jews are not permitted to sentence anyone to death?

6. How many people tried Jesus?

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all agree that Jesus was brought before Pilate to be sentenced, but Luke deviating from the other three gospels adds something extra in that Jesus was also tried by Herod in Luke 23:6-12). In this episode Jesus gets mocked and ridiculed by Herod. Why is this event completely omitted in all the other three gospels? Could it be that it did not happen and was simply Luke's invention to add more drama to the narrative?

7. How did Judas the traitor die?

This is quite relevant to the passion narratives because it happened during the same time and that he is charged with the responsibility of deserting and betraying Jesus to the Jewish leaders for some money(Mark 14:43-46, Matthew 26:47-50, Luke 22:47-54 and John 18:2-12). According to Matthew the following is what happened to Judas Iscariot,

"Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

"Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of israel did value; And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me. " (Matthew 27:3-10)

The passage cites a prophecy that is attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. No such prophecy exists in Jeremiah. Christian apologists have tried to reconcile the problem by mixing together Jeremiah 18:2-3 and Zechariah 11:12-13. This is utterly disingenuous because anyone can see that the author cited Jeremiah, not Jeremiah and Zechariah. Prof. Raymond E. Brown in his volume 1 or his 2 volume work on the crucifixion says about this confusion, "That conglomeration of words cited by Matt exists nowhere in the standard OT." [5] In the passage Judas' manner of death is mentioned, that is, he hanged himself. Acts 1:18-20 relates the same incident, but the details differ heavily,

"(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) "For," said Peter, "it is written in the book of Psalms," ?May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,'[d] and, " ?May another take his place of leadership." (Acts 1:18-20)

As we can see the above passage presents a totally different picture of Judas' death. Whilst Matthew says he hanged himself, Acts on the other hand says he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. If the latter is true why did Matthew not include it? Isn't such a dramatic and gruesome death of a traitor to one's Lord and Master worth mentioning? We can also see that a totally different prophecy is cited for the incident if it ever happened. One would think that the same prophecy would be applied for the same incident like the incident of Jesus going into Jerusalem on a donkey whereby the same prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 is quoted. This means that the two authors are retelling different stories. The only similitude is the person involved.

8. False promise by Jesus?

In Luke 23:43 we have Jesus making a promise to his fellow crucified victim,

"Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.""

This was during the crucifixion. According to the Creed of the Apostles which may well have been based on 1 Peter 3:18-20 Jesus went down to hell after the crucifixion, "Jesus who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, buried and descended into hell." (Apostles' Creed) Further more, in John 20:17 Jesus says, "Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ?I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " Where is the father? The Father is in heaven according to Matthew 6:9-13 and Matthew 23:9. What was the promise again? The promise was that he would see Jesus in heaven today i.e. on Friday. Apostles' Creed says Jesus went to hell after he died and John 20:17 says Jesus did not yet ascend to the Father(in heaven) on Sunday. It is clearly a contradiction.

9. Who and where were the women at the crucifixion?

Matthew 27:56 claims that Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James, Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee were watching at the scene. Mark 15:40 claims that Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses and Salome were watching. Luke 23:49 says, "And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things." If Luke is correct then all the witnesses including the women were standing at a distance watching the incident. John goes against the rest and claims that Jesus' mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdelene were standing close to the cross. It was so clase that Jesus was able to speak to mother. (John 19:25-26) Did you also notice that the women were all MARYS? Were there no other name among Jewish women other than Mary? How very coincidental that all the women mentioned are Marys. Is it easier to say it's a coincidence or that they are inventions of the authors?

10. Who did Jesus appear to?

According to Paul, Jesus appeared to the 12:

"that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. " (1 Corinthians 15:4-8)

From the Gospels we know that there were no 12 disciples soon after the crucifixion because Judas had gone. Some apologists might suggest that the 12 is merely an "appellation" and di not designate the actual number of disciples who were around. This is inconsistent with the fact that the Gospels treat the disciples as 11 when Judas was no longer around. Had it been an appellation i.e. a special designation for the disciples despite their actual number the gospel authors would have retained the 12, but they did not. There were 11 left so they were called the eleven and not the twelve (e.g. Mark 16:14).

Luke 24:33- 43 tells us that Jesus appeared to the 11 and ate honeycomb and broiled fish in their midst in the upper room. However, John 20:24 tells us that Thomas was not around when Jesus appeared i.e. as related in Luke 24:33-43. That means that the number of disciples that were present should have been TEN at the most and not eleven as Luke 24:33 claims! Paul says 12, Luke says 11 and John asserts 10. Which one is true? Scholars like Dr. William Lane Craig have tried to reconcile this conundrum by proposing a sequence of events where Jesus is suggested to have first appeared in Jerusalem then the disciples went back to Galilee and after that they return to Jerusalem for Pentecost. Is this harmonising attempt coherent? One of the most eminent Bible scholars and praised as such by Dr. William Lane Craig, Prof. Raymond E. Brown disagrees. Such a sequential harmonising according to Prof. Raymond E. Brown, "does violence to the Gospel evidence". [6] Raymond E. Brown in the same book postulates that the several appearances recorded in the gospels are actually fictitious inventions stemming from one single appearance.

11. Jesus' trial could not have taken place at night and concluded in the same night.

The Mishnah says about capital punishment,

"Civil suits are tried by day, and concluded at night. But capital charges must be tried by day and concluded by day. Civil suits can be concluded on the same day, whether for acquittal or condemnation; capital charges may be concluded on the same day with a favourable verdict; but only on the morrow with an unfavourable verdict. Therefore trials are not held on the eve of a sabbath or festival. In civil suits, and in cases of cleanness and uncleanness, we begin with [the opinion of] the most eminent [of the judges]; whereas in capital charges, we commence with [the opinion of] those on the side [benches]. (Sanh. 32a)

Matthew 26:31-57, Mark 14:30-53 and John 18:28 claim that Jesus' trial took place at night. According to the Jewish law as we have read above this cannot be true unless the Jewish leaders and the high priest were altogether ignorant or perhaps they were involved in an evil conspiracy where they bent their own law? If that is true why isn't the error of their actions exposed and rebuked in the gospels? Why did Jesus not himself question the manner in which he was tried being himself a learned Jewish teacher? As Prof. Craig A. Evans tells us in his Context, Family and Formation in the Cambridge Companion to the Bible p. 19, "Jesus is frequently called ?Rabbi' or ?Rabboni', or its Greek equivalents ?master' (epistata) or ?teacher' (didaskalos)." So, Jesus was no doubt a Rabbi(Mark 12:29). Being a Rabbi and learned in the Jewish law he would have questioned the Jewish leaders concerning the unconstsitutional nocturnal trial. But, no such disagreement is found either from Jesus or from anyone else in the entire New Testament. Earlier we argued against the location of Jesus trial which took place at the house of the high priest. This is very unusual in Jewish tradition since the place of assembly was the hall of cut stone located within the temple as Geza Vermes notes in his The Passion and Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz mentions their The Historical Jesus.

There are many more discrepencies, contradictions and difficulties in the Gospels concerning the crucifixion and other things besides. However, the inconsistencies that we have contended are sufficient in proving our point. The anonymous gospels are far from consistent in their narratives. If we can't establish which incident actually happened how can we be certain that any of them happened at all? In order to have a reasonable commentary on the events one should be able to know what truly happened first. The inconsistencies give proof to the Qur'anic declaration concerning the crucifixion that, ".those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no certain knowledge, but they only follow conjecture." (Qur'an 4:157)

Christian apologists tend to argue that the crucifixion is true based on the multitude of independent multiple attestations. This brings us to our second contention.

 

Further reading:

http://harunyahya.com/en/Articles/33216/various-contradictions-in-the-four

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Contention 2: There are no reliable multiple independent attestations

The following are some of the historical sources appealed to by Christians that are considered independent historical attestations.

1. Flavius Josephus.

Flavius Josephus is popularly quoted by Christians to substantiate the crucifixion tale. They quote the very famous passage that is attributed to him known as the Testimonium Flavianum.

"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. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." (Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3) [7]

Scholars have long suspected the above to be spurious. Questions regarding the authenticity of this particular passage have been raised since the 16th century as Raymond Brown notes in his volume one of The Death of the Messiah on page 374. Today it is widely rejected as a forgery attributed to Josephus. Raymond E. Brown on the same page of his work cites a number of authorities who rejected the text as outright inauthentic which includes Battifol, Birdsall, Burkitt, Conzelmann, Hahn, L. Hermann, Lagrange, Norden and Zeitlin. It is historically known that Josephus was a Jew and died as one. He did not convert to Christianity at any point in time. It goes without saying that being a Jew he would have hardly attested Jesus' Christhood and his rising again fulfilling the prophecies of the prophets of old. Had he believed in such Christian doctrines he would have been a Christian. The early church father Origen explicitly states in Against Celcus, 1.47 and in his Commentary on Matthew, 10.17 that Josephus did not believe Jesus was the Christ. Had the passage been authentically written by Josephus surely the early church fathers of the second and third centuries quoted him especially when they cite him regarding Old Testament interpretations. The earliest citation of the text is from the fourth century by Eusebius of Caesaria in Demonstratio Evangelica or The Proof of the Gospel. That's over 400 years of a gap which is more than enough time to fake a document. Impossible to be traced back to Josephus it is indeed a fake. It is noteworthy that Raymond E. Brown prefers the position of partial-interpolation where Josephus is thought to have written the basic text and the special references to Jesus e.g. as Messiah are later Christian interpolations. In discussing this however, Brown does not offer any definite substantiation for this position. In fact, he merely describes it as "plausible". The Testimonium is found in all the mss. of Ant. [8] and none omits the special references to Christ which leads us to contend that the whole text must have been forged.

2. Cornelius Tacitus.

The work involved in Tacitus' Annals. This work was written in approximately 117 CE. In it Jesus' death is mentioned.

"Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus." (Annals, 15.44) [9]

Several scholars have questioned the authenticity of this passage. It is claimed that Tacitus made use of Roman documents in reporting the above. If that is true surely he would not have made the error with Pilate. Pilate is identified as a procurator rather than a prefect. This is a historical problem that has been noted by scholars. Those two positions are not one and the same. A procurator is a financial administrator(civilian) whilst a prefect is a military position. Historically Judea was ruled by a prefect appointed by Rome from 6 CE to around 44 CE. It was after that period that the governor was procurator. In fact, an inscription that was found at Caesarea Maritima, ludaea there is an inscription dedicated to Pilate which reads, "praefectus iudaeae" which means "prefect of Judea". Raymond E. Brown notes, "In calling Pilate a procurator Tacitus was reflecting the later terminology of the 1st cent., still in vogue at the time of his writing." [10]Secondly, official Roman documents could not possibly have referred to Jesus as "Christus" as G.A. Wells points out in The Historical Evidence for Jesus.[11] So where did Tacitus get his information from? Well, isn't it obvious? Christians were already quite known then. He could have easily gotten his information from the Christians as R.T France, E.P. Sanders, G.A. Wells and others have pointed out. This means that even if Tacitus authentically wrote the information it is almost 100 years after the happenings and does not rely on independent sources.

Other historical sources that Christians appeal to include Lucian of Samosata's The Passing of Peregrinus, Mara Bar Serapion, Thallus and Jewish Rabbinic literature. All these historical sources are late second to third century cources that can hardly be described as independent. And many of them suffer from historical inaccuracies as we have seen inTacitus' Annals.
 

Contention 3: There are no prophecies that truly predict the crucifixion

An often quoted passage in support of the crucifixion is Isaiah 53 which we have discussed in another article. Please click on A Critical Study of Isaiah 53 to read it.

We will later show that there are clear prophecies and promises in the Old Testament that should ensure Jesus' safety from any harm that his enemies could have wished to inflict upon him.

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Contention 4: Jesus could not have been crucified outside of Jerusalem.



We will prove from Jesus' own words that he could not have possibly suffered at the hands of his enemies. Let us begin with the proof text for our premise namely Luke 13:33.

The context of Luke 13:33 starts at verse 31. It says that the Pharisees came to Jesus and warns him of an impending threat from Herod who supposedly wants him dead. In response to this warning Jesus responds,

12. Go tell that fox, ?I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.

13. In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day - for surely no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem!

The last part in verse 13 is a clear negation by Jesus regarding the impossibility of a Prophet to die outside of Jerusalem. The prophet that is mentioned is a reference to his own person. The verse itself and the context does not allow a different interpretation unless the Christians wish to tell us that Moses died in Jerusalem which he obviously did not. There may be Christians out there who think that Jesus was not a prophet(and I have met quite a few myself).

 

Let us assure them that Jesus was indeed a prophet according to their own books,

"And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee."(Matthew 21:11)

"But Jesus said to them, "A PROPHET is not without honour except in his own country and his own house."(Matthew 13:57)

"But Jesus said to them, "A PROPHET is not without honour except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house."(Mark 6:4)

"Then he said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no PROPHET is accepted in his own country."(Luke 4:24)

"And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:"(Luke 24:19)

"And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us"(Luke 7:16)

"Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet."(John 7:40)

Some of you may raise the question, "If Jesus was speaking about himself in Luke 13:33 surely he would have said something like , ?I cannot die outside of Jerusalem' instead of ?a prophet cannot die outside of Jeruslame' which is in the third person." That is a legitimate question. And the answer to that is given in the verses you just read i.e. Matthew 13:57, Mark 6:4 and Luke 4:24. They are all relating about the same incident and Jesus is clearly addressing himself as a prophet in the third person. Thus the question raised has secured our premise further, alhamdulillah.

Clutching at straws some Christians(of whom I have met) may try to insist that the verse does not totally negate the possibility of Jesus dying outside of Jerusalem and that it just says that he cannot like in the KJV, NASB and other translations of the verse. First of all, granted that the KJV and the NASB have translated the verses correctly what does the word ?cannot' mean? If I said, "I cannot go to the USA" does it mean I can? It's a silly question I know, but the question raised by the Christians in this regard is also silly. The word cannot is a negation which means not able to or not possible. In fact, that is what the Greek says. The verse reads,

πλὴν δεῖ με σήμερον καὶ αὔριον καὶ τῇ ἐχομένῃ πορεύεσθαι, ὅτι οὐκ ἐνδέχεται προφήτην ἀπολέσθαι ἔξω Ἱερουσαλήμ

The words in question are the ones highlighted which transliterates into ou endechetai. The particle ou is a negative and it can mean no, not or even never. The verb enedechetai means possible. Joined together it means not possible. Therefore, Young's Literal Translation correctly translates the verse thus,

"but it behoveth me to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following, to go on, because it is not possible for a prophet to perish out of Jerusalem."

God's Word Translation also translates it in the following manner,

"But I must be on my way today, tomorrow, and the next day. It's not possible for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem."

So "cannot" as found in the KJV, NASB etc. or "no prophet can" as found in the NIV translation for the verse really means NOT POSSIBLE.

Before we move on let us reiterate it one more time lest we forget, that is, the prophet mentioned in verse 13 is no other than Jesus himself.

By now, you must be wondering what the point is. In fact, some of you may be sitting in your chair saying to the screen, "Okay, so what if Jesus said he cannot die outside of Jerusalem? What does that prove?" Well, the point will be unveiled very shortly.

Where did Jesus allegedly die?

According to the records that we have in the gospels he supposedly died at a place called Golgotha in Aramaic, Calvary in Latin and Kranious Topos in Greek(Matthew 27:23, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33 and John 19:17). Let's just take one of the four.

"And when they came to a place called Gol'gotha (which means the place of a skull),"

So, according to the verse Jesus was taken to Golgotha to be crucified.

Where was Golgotha?

According to an article by Keith W. Stump published on two Christian websites http://www.wcg.org/lit/jesus/golgotha.htm and http://www.towards-success.com/dejnarde_files/golgotha.htm Golgotha was outside of Jerusalem.

"What does the Bible tell us about the location? The Gospel writers call the place where Jesus was crucified Golgotha?an Aramaic word meaning "the skull." Calvary is the Latin form of the word. Scripture does not reveal the precise location of Golgotha. It simply states that Jesus' crucifixion took place outside the city of Jerusalem, though near it (John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12). Jewish law did not permit executions and burials inside the city." (emphasis added)

HarperCollins' Bible Dictionary informs,

"John 19:20 and Jewish and Roman execution customs indicate that it was located outside of Jerusalem's city walls". [12]

Mercer Dictionary of the Bible tells us,

"Jewish and Roman law would likely have required capital punishment to take place outside the city walls (John 19:20; Heb 13:12)." [13]

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica Golgotha was outside Jerusalem,

"The hill of execution was outside the city walls of Jerusalem, apparently near a road and not far from the sepulchre where Jesus was buried." (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/238060/Golgotha) (emphasis added)

According to Online Etymology Dictionary it was near Jerusalem,

"hill near Jerusalem," via L. and Gk., from Aramaic gulgulta, lit. "place of the skull," from Heb. gulgoleth "skull." So called in reference to its shape (see Calvary)" (GOLGOTHA." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 23 Apr. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/GOLGOTHA>.) (emphasis added)

In John 19:20 which is cited by Keith W. Stump in his article we read that the place was NEAR the city(Jerusalem),

"Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek."

The word is eggus which literally means near. What does it mean to be near? Near indicates being outside! If you said, "I am near my house." What does it mean? Does it mean you're inside your house? NO. It means you're in close proximity to your house, but it is outside. If you said that you are near New York, you are not inside it but rather outside. So according to John Jesus was taken to a place called Golgotha which was near(outside) of Jerusalem. If that is true then it is in clear opposition to Jesus' own testimony in Luke 13:33 which we read and analysed earlier. There are really only two options for reconciliation.

1. Jesus lied in Luke 13:33

2. Jesus did not lie in Luke 13:33.

In Matthew 7:24 Jesus says,"Everyone, them, who listens to this sayings of Mine and puts them into practice will be like a thoughtful man who built his house on the rock." Who is your master? Is he Jesus or the anonymous author of John? My master is Jesus and I would like to follow and believe in what he says. What about you? Luke 13:33 clearly denies what is told about his alleged crucifixion. Unless he died in Jerusalem the whole incident was no incident at all. In fact, it was a lie. Jesus was never crucified nor killed as the Qur'an clearly declares in Chapter 4.

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Contention 5: People were forgiven before Jesus so his sacrifice was not necessary for atonement... then there was no point behind the crucifixion.



In Jonah 3 an entire community is forgiven by God when they repented of their sins.

"Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. " (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The above verse clearly shows that what enables forgiveness is sincere repentence. This is further affirmed in Jeremiah 36:3, ""Perhaps the people of Judah will repent when they hear again all the terrible things I have planned for them. Then I will be able to forgive their sins and wrongdoings."

 Jesus is not required for atonement.

"Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the Lord people avoid evil." (Proverbs 16:6)

"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6)

Because it was not necessary for Jesus to sacrifice himself to enable atonement of sins God would have saved him. More on this later.

Related to this is the matter concerning Jesus' sinlessness and perfection. Christians contend that Jesus is the only one who can die for mankind because of his uniqueness as the sinless and perfect man.

How can such a claim be true when Job is clearly described as PERFECT in Job 2:3?

"Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."

Most Bible translators render the highlighted part in like manner. However, the KJV has retained the meaning of perfectness,

"And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? and still he holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause." (KJV)

The same is retained in the following versions.

"And Jehovah said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil: and he still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause." (American Standard Version)

"And Jehovah said to Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and abstaineth from evil? and still he remaineth firm in his integrity, though thou movedst me against him, to swallow him up without cause."(Darby Bible Translation)

"And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and art upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil: and he still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause."(English Revised Version)

"And the LORD said to Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and shunneth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause."(Webster's Bible Translation)

In fact the Bible in Basic English renders it in the following manner,

"And the Lord said to the Satan, Have you taken note of my servant Job, for there is no one like him on the earth, a man without sin and upright, fearing God and keeping himself far from evil? and he still keeps his righteousness, though you have been moving me to send destruction on him without cause."

The Arabic Bible uses the word كامل KAMIL which means PERFECT. The original Hebrew word is tam which does mean perfect, sinless and blameless.

A similar word is found in Deuteronomy 32:4, "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." The word used here is tamiym which means the same thing as tam.

So if God had required a perfect man to die in order to save mankind he could have used Job or even Zacharias and Elizabeth both of whom are described as righteous and blameless(sinless) in Luke 1:6. Jesus' candidacy and the crucifixion are both absolutely unnecessary.

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Contention 6: Jesus was a very righteous man and a great prophet so it would have been in God's interest to save him especially if he had asked.



Jesus prayed earnestly to God to save him!

"And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."(Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42)

Jesus was asking to be removed from being harmed by his enemies. Make no mistake about it! Even Christian commentaries admit that the cup in the verse symbolises the impending hardships. The People's New Testament commentary says, "This cup is the betrayal, the trial, the mocking, the scourging, the cross, and all besides which our thoughts cannot reach."

Was Jesus' prayer answered? If he was a righteous servant it should have been answered according to the Old Testament.

The following are verses and prophecies assuring Jesus' safety:

"If you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty, if you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and propser your rightful habitation." (Job 8:5-6)

"But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me." (Psalms 55:16)

"..what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you do care for him?(Psalms 8:4)

Who is the son of man if not Jesus who is described as just that 83 times in the New Testament!

" The Lord answer you in the day of trouble." (Psalms 20:1)

"When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and deliver them out of all their troubles."((Psalms 34:17)

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." (Psalms 34:19)

"The Lord delivers him in the day of troubles." (Psalms 41:1)

"The lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land, you do not give him up to the will of his enemies." (Psalms 41:2)

"For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who condemn him to death." (Psalms 109:31)

"He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them." (Psalms 145:19)

Jesus himself taught that if a righteous person prayed the Father would answer in Matthew 6:6, Matthew 7:7-8 and Matthew 18:19. Jesus said explicitly,

"if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22)

God hears the worshipper as John 9:31.

Was Jesus' prayer answered? Amazingly, the Bible says yes and in the book of Hebrews at that!

"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered." (Hebrews 5:7-8)

The above is clear indication that Jesus' fervent prayer was answered. The following Bible commentary by Dr. Paul Ellingworth on Hebrews 5:7 explains the meaning of the verse in detail concluding with the Orthodox Christian position, but at the same time admits that the verse likely means Jesus was asking to be saved from death/being killed:

"σωζω here has the literal meaning of preservation or rescue from physical death (cf. Σωτηρία in 11:7), not the extended meaning of preservation from eternal death, as in 7:25. σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου may mean either "prevent him from being killed" (cf. Pr. 15:24; Jas. 5:20; 2 Clem. 16:4) or "rescue him by raising him out of death" (cf. Wis. 14:4; Jn. 12:27; absolutely, Lk. 8:50; more generally, of rescue from the threat of death, Ps. 107:20 [LXX 106:19];
Ho. 13:14; Sir. 51:12). If the reference is specifically to Gethsemane, the first alternative is more likely
."[14] (emphasis added)

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Contention 7: The crucifixion is unjustified.



According to Christian apologists Jesus' death was in accordance with Roman law which stipulated that rebels should be executed. Jesus according to the same apologists was a rebel since he called himself the King of the Jews thus usurping Roman authority. The following is an explanation concerning the Crucifixion method by Joel B. Green who is professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary:

"In the context of any discussion of the material aspects of crucifixion it is crucial to remember that Rome did not embrace crucifixion as its method of choice for execution on account of the excruciating pain it caused. The acts of the crucifixion resulted in little blood loss and death came slowly, as the body succumbed to shock. This form of capital punishment was savage and heinous, but for other reasons. Executed publicly, situated at a major crossroads or on a well-trafficked artery, devoid of clothing, left to be eaten by birds and beasts, victims of crucifixion were subject to optimal, unmitigated, vicious ridicule.

Rome did not expose its own citizens to this form of heinous punishment, but reserved crucifixion above all for those who resisted imperial rule." [15]

Generally, modern scholars argue that Pilate's active part in Jesus' punishment was justified due to a political threat that he posed by claiming that he 's the King of the Jews. There is no explicit verse anywhere in the Bible where Jesus unequivocally claimed to be a king of anyone, let alone a king of an entire nation. Jesus was not the military messiah that the Jews were anticipating. He was the spiritual messiah that was generally passive in his mission. In the gospel records there is no indication that Jesus intended to usurp the Roman empire. He gave them no justified reason to have him executed as a rebel. In fact, when asked about the accusation thrown against him concerning his alleged worldly kingship he denied it.

"Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
"Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?" Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." "You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." "What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him." (John 18:33-38)

In the above passage we see Jesus clearly denying a worldly kingship and instead affirmed a spiritual one(Matthew 18:3, Mark 10:15 and Luke 18:17). As a result of this Jesus was found innocent by Pilate. His verdict was, "I FIND NO BASIS FOR A CHARGE AGAINST HIM." The same verdict is found in Luke 23 repeated twice in the same passage(verses 14-22)!

In John 6:14-15 we are told that when Jesus thought that people wanted to make him King he withdrew into seclusion to the mountain.

The following passage is very telling,

"When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?" He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?" When Peter said, "From strangers," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me." (Matthew 17:24-27)

Jesus obeyed the regulations of Rome and taught his followers to pay taxes. In fact, we have the famous statement from Jesus,

"Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." And they were amazed at him." (Mark 12:17)

How can such an obedient subject of the Roman empire be condemned to a rebel's death? G. Vermes says, "contrary to the claim of some contemporary New Testament interpreters, the general context of the portrait of Jesus in the Synoptics and in the rest of the New Testament shows that he was not a pretender to the throne of David, or a would-be leader of a revolt against Rome." [16]

Christian apologists may offer a counterargument by arguing that it did not really matter what Jesus himself personally believed or practiced, but what the Jews told Pilate. However, if Pilate had believed the Jews in that Jesus was a threat to Rome surely his followers would have been persecuted too. But nothing like that happened in the years that ensued. People were allowed to convert to Christianity and followed Jesus' teachings as Bart D. Ehrman mentions in Misquoting Jesus. The earliest official Christian persecution by Rome was during Emperor Nero's rule around 54 to 68 CE. However, this was not because of the charges levelled against Jesus by the Jewish leaders. The idea that a very powerful Roman prefect could be pressured into believing tall tales after he himself found the person innocent is fantastically absurd. As a matter of fact, John says that he did not fall for theaccusations and continued to affirm Jesus' innocence, "Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him."(John 19:6) Were Roman prefects so callous and unjust? This is akin to a modern judge in a court of law declaring a person innocent, but sending him to the gallows regardless. Does that make sense? It is absolutely absurd!

As we have seen there is no sufficient or satisfactory reason for Jesus' crucifixion, which must lead us to the conclusion that many of the tales surrounding his trials have been fabricated. What else have been fabricated?

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Contention 8: The earliest Gospel has no passion narrative in it!



You might be saying that I've gone bonkers for claiming that the earliest Gospel has no passion narrative. You might think I'm talking about Mark which is considered by scholars to be the first of the four canonical Gospels to be written. No, I am not talking about Mark. Rather, I am talking about a Gospel that predates even the Gospel of Mark. I'm talking about the lost Gospel "Q".

To understand what the Gospel Q is one needs to understand some background concerning the first three Gospels. The first three Gospels are labelled as Synoptics which means "seen together" the reason of which is due to the fact that the passages and pericopes in the three bear numerous stark similarities. Biblical scholars considered this as the "Synoptic Problem". The conclusion that they arrived at was that both Matthew and Luke relied heavily on a common source namely, the Gospel according to Mark. However, Mark cannot account for a considerable number of verses that are found in Matthew and Luke. These are verses that Matthew and Luke share in common, but are missing in Mark. To solve this issue German Biblical scholars postulated another source that Matthew and Luke relied upon which they have simply dubbed "Q" which is short for the German word Quelle meaning source. Though there are scholars who contest the existence of "Q", the majority accept it as the most tenable explanation for the parallels found between Matthew and Luke that are not accounted for in Mark. Most scholars have dated the "Q" Gospel to approximately 50 CE predating the Canonical Gospels.[17]

By comparing Matthew and Luke closely the scholars have reconstructed this "Q" Gospel. What does it contain? A lot of things, but most importantly is that it has no passion or resurrection narrative at all. One of the foremost scholars on the "Q" Gospel notes, ".the Sayings Gospel has no passion narrative or resurrection stories."[18]. Bart D. Ehrman also notes, "Most striking was the circumstance that in none of the Q materials (that is, in none of the passages found in Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark) is there an account of Jesus' death and resurrection." [19]

Gospel "Q" came about around the same time Paul was writing his letters and teaching the theology of the crucifixion and resurrection as essential to the Christian faith. If the crucifixion truly happened and indeed necessary for salvation and that Jesus definitely raised from the dead why is it not mentioned in this gospel that was made used by Matthew and Luke? We contend that the reason why it does not contain either passion or resurrection narrative is because neither really took place and are indeed unessential to the faith that Jesus brought.

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Contention 9: Even if (for the sake of argument) Jesus was put on the cross he could not have died so fast!



The Roman method of crucifixion was not to cause instant or immediate death of the victim. Historically, the Roman method was to fix someone upon the cross either by tying or nailing and to allow him to die a shameful and above all a slow painful and agonizing death. The Gospel narratives give conflicting timelines for Jesus' crucifixion and time of expiration/death, but none exceed 6 hours. What exactly was the blow that caused his death if indeed he was put on the cross?

In discussing this issue Prof. Raymond E. Brown says clearly, "Crucifixion pierces no vital organ, and so inevitably one must wonder what physical or organic factor caused Jesus to die. The extremely brief Gospel descriptions of the death of Jesus are of little help in answering this question." [19] Christian apologists are fond of citing medical professionals who have delved into this matter to argue for the impossibility of surviving the cross and affirm Jesus' death on it. Regarding this Raymond E. Brown says, "In my judgment the major defect of most of the studies I have reported on thus far is that they were written by doctors who did not stick to their trade and let a literalistic understanding of the Gospel accounts influence their judgments on the physical cause of death of Jesus. There is no evidence that the evangelists personally knew anything about that matter." [20]

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Conclusion:

The crucifixion of Jesus is a tale that is indeed fascinating and quite fitting for a bedtime story and can be safely placed in the fiction section in any library or bookstore. We are satisfied with concluding that the cumulative 9 contentions proposed in this critique soundly and sufficiently disprove the tale of Jesus' crucifixion as historical fact and it should instead be called the CRUCIFICTION(coined by the late Ahmed Deedat). We submit that the Qur'an is absolutely right when it says,

"And their saying: "We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, messenger of God." They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. " (4:157).


References:

[1] Howard Clark Kee, Eric M. Meyers, John Rogerson, Anthony J. Saldarini.
The Cambridge Companion to the Bible(1997). Cambridge, U.K. : Cambridge
University Press. pp. 447


[2] Obert C. Tanner, Lewis M. Rogers, Sterling M. McMurrin. Toward
Understanding the New Testament(1990). Salt Lake City: Signature Books.
pp. 30


[3] Ed Parish Sanders. The Historical Figure of Jesus(1995). England: Penguin Books. pp. 72

[4] Geza Vermes. The Changing Faces of Jesus(2000). London, England: Penguin Books. pp. 43

[5] Raymond E. Brown. The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 1(1994). New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. pp. 648

[6] Raymond E. Brown. An Introduction to the New Testament(1997). New York: Doubleday.

[7] Flavius Josephus. Jewish Antiquities(1998). Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[8] Raymond E. Brown. Op. Cit. (1997).

[9] Tacitus. Annals (1962). London: William Heinmann Ltd.

[10] G.A. Wells. The Historical Evidence for Jesus(1988). London, England: Prometheus Books. pp. 16-17

[11] Raymond E. Brown. Op. Cit. (1997). pp. 337

[12] Paul J. Achtemeier. HarperCollins' Bible Dictionary(1996). HarperCollins. pp. 164

[13] Watson E. Mills. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible(1990). Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. pp. 128

[14] Paul Ellingworth. The Epistle to the Hebrews, A Commentary on the Greek
Text (1993). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


[14] Joel B. Green. Crucifixion, The Cambridge Companion to Jesus(2001). Cambridge University Press. pp. 91

[15] Geza Vermes. Op. Cit. pp. 181

[16] Bart D. Ehrman. Lost Christianities(2003). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 58

[17] http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=542

[18] Bart D. Ehrman. Op. Cit. pp. 57

[19] Raymond E. Brown. The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2(1997). Op. Cit. pp. 1088

[20] Ibid. pp. 1092

 
Recommended reading:

The Mystery of The Historical Jesus by Louay Fatoohi

The Mystery of the Crucifixion: The Attempt to Kill Jesus in the Qur'an,
The New Testament, and Historical Sources by Louay Fatoohi


200+ ways the Qur'an Corrects the Bible by Mohamed Ghounem

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman

Jesus Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman

An Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond E. Brown

The Truth About the Crucifixion of Jesus by A.S. Abraham

 

http://muslim-responses.com/Cross_Critique/Cross_Critique_

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Jesus Himself said He would die and raise on the third day. His death was prophesied by Isasiah 800 years before His birth. Prophet Jonah was a type and shadow which Jesus used as a allegory to point to His resurrection.

 

He most definitely died and rose again. He died that you may live.

 

You have nothing.

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Did earliest Christians believe (alleged) crucifixion to be indispensible?

An account of the earliest biblical Christians who did not believe crucifixion to be imperative!
By Question Mark

Introduction, Background and Premise

Paul had made it indispensible for his followers that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion is the corner stone of Christianity. According to Paul’s doctrines, without Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice there is nothing else in Christianity:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how thatChrist died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Co 15:1-4)

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.(1 Co 15:14)

The reason why Paul gave utmost importance to the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) is because, according to Paul (not all Christians as we would soon observe), Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice was the only way for the remission of sins:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb 9:22)

Remember that before Paul preached his branded theology, Old Testament Laws had already provided enough doctrines and teachings on remission of sins and salvation; no wonder Paul pre-empted Laws by stating that they are dead:

“But before the time for faith came, the Law kept us all locked up as prisoners until this coming faith should be revealed. And so the Law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might then be put right with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge of us.” (Galatians 3: 23-25)

“Now, however, we are free from the Law, because we died to that which once held us prisoners. No longer do we serve in the old way of a written law, but in the new way of the Spirit.” (Romans 7:6)

Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version

In fact Paul went as far as to claim that with Laws remission of sins and salvationcannot be achieved:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16)

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (Gal 3:11)

Furthermore, Paul even asserted that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice would be wasted if righteousness/salvation/atonement is achieved by any other means other than alleged cross:

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal 2:21)

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)

On the foregoing, Paul claimed that if Christ (peace be upon him) is not allegedly crucified and raised then the sins of believers would remain – it would not be blotted out:

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Co 15:17)

Thus, to sum up, Paul’s theology is:

Without alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) Christianity is vain.
The only mode of atonement is through the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)
OT Laws were allegedly rendered defunct with the arrival of Messiah (peace be upon him)…
…it is because if observation of OT Laws provided salvation then Messiah’s (peace be upon him) precious and “perfect” sacrifice is worthless.
Thus, conclusively, it is only the perfect (alleged) sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) which brings salvation and remission of sins.

So far so good, however, notice that it is only Paul who is preaching; he was not the only “apostle” preaching about Christianity – there were other stalwarts as well, like James.

In fact when we read James’ preaching (through his epistles) then he over and over again contravened Paul on key and very basic doctrines of Christianity.

James even contradicted Paul on the indispensability of the alleged crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him)! Consider the following passage, for instance:

“Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put in into practice. Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks closely into PERFECT LAW THAT SETS PEOPLE FREE, who keeps on paying attention to it, but puts it into practice – that person will be blessed by God in what he does. (James 1: 22-25, Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version)
 
Now please ponder with neutral mind. If indeed Paul’s assertions would have been universal representation of Christian doctrines, in other words, if Paul’s doctrines would have been the only theology in Christianity, then, James would have echoed with Paul that: emancipation comes ONLY by the alleged “blood of Christ”, man can never be justified with the works of the Laws on the contrary, he would “fall from grace”, Christ’s (peace be upon him) “perfect” sacrifice has obviated the observance of the Laws, on the foregoing, if anyone follows the Laws even after Messiah’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion then the alleged “perfect” sacrifice would be wasted so on and so forth.

However, contrary to all of the above, James postulates that Christian believershave to follow the Laws of the Old Testament to “set themselves free”, in other words, to emancipate themselves from their sins! He exhorts his disciples to not merely read the Laws but put them into practice for remission of their sins.

However, the issues are:

(I) Did not James know that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged “perfect” sacrifice has been offered which is more than enough, if not the only mode of remission of sins?

(II) Did not James know that with Christ (peace be upon him) the Laws which “sets people free” have come to an end?

(III) More importantly, did not James know that if Laws would “set people free” then Paul’s “lord and savior’s” precious sacrifice would be rendered “vain”? Refer Gal 2:21, 5:4.

It would be disrespectful to the knowledge of “apostle” James that he did not know all of the above. That being the case, the only logical inference to be made is: James either, did not consider Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion the only way of emancipation or perfect enough to “set people free”! It is because even after Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion, if James who is no less than Paul if not more than him, claims that Christians need to observe Laws which “set people free” – then it means beside Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice, Laws were also potent enough to emancipate people.

Acknowledging the obvious problems and contradiction with James’ doctrines, Christians Scholars have come out with weird and desperate, if not disrespectful and belittling, commentaries imputing that James did not had apostolic authority and that his preaching were not meant for Christians (!!??).

The Epistle of James is not addressed to the assembly, and does not take the ground of apostolic authority over the persons to whom it is sent. It is a practical exhortation which still recognises the twelve tribes and the connection of the christian Jews with them, as John addressed the Gentiles, although the Jewish people had their place before God. Thus the Spirit of God still acknowledges here the relationship with israel, as in the other case the relationship with Gentiles, and the rights of God which are unchangeable, whatever may be the special privileges granted to the assembly or to israel respectively. We know that historically the christian Jews remained Jews to the end of the New Testament history, and were even zealous for the law — to us a strange thing, but which God endured for a time.(John Darby’s Synopsis, James 1:1-27)

Observe very assiduously the important last sentence in the commentary. Notice that Darby makes two assertions:

(A) Earliest Christians remained Jews, in other words, they remained loyal to OT Laws and subsequently doctrines promulgated by James.

(B) To all those who follow Paul’s preached Christianity, James’ preaching comes as a “strange thing”.

Both the above observations have very strong implications:

First observation, namely (A), imply that majority, if not all, earliest Christians (including James and other “apostles”) believed that even after the so called “perfect”, precious, and Law-ending sacrifice (alleged) of Messiah (peace be upon him), Old Testament Laws were viable and potent enough as an alternative mode besides the alleged sacrifice to “set people free”. Thus, majority, if not all, earliestChristians did not believe that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice was the only way of emancipation and that without it there could not be any remission of sins.

Secondly, that is observation (B) implies and further corroborates that indeed James’ doctrines were not in line with popular Christian doctrines, if not contradictory to Paul’s doctrines, otherwise it would not have engendered a “strange” reaction in John Darby – a follower of Paul’s doctrines.

Rather than exclaiming on James’ doctrines, Christians need to reconsider each position (that of James and Paul) because who knows James and all of earliestChristians would have had a similar “strange” reaction had they seen Christians of Paul’s thoughts.

More biblical proofs that alleged cross was not indispensible

James was not merely preaching but his actions proved that he and the earliestChristians did not believed the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) to be imperative and the only mode of salvation.

James and his colleagues in the Church of Jerusalem continued to practice Old Testament Laws and rituals including SIN – OFFERING! In fact what is more ironical is that they made Paul the leader of the OT rituals – the very same person who was championing that OT Laws had been rendered dead with Jesus (peace be upon him), Christ’s (peace be upon him) “perfect” sacrifice (alleged) sacrifice has obviated any need of observance of OT Laws, so on and so forth:

“When we arrived in Jerusalem, the believers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to see James; and all the church elders were present. Paul greeted them and gave a complete report of everything that God had done among the Gentiles through his work.After hearing him, they all praised God. Then they said, Brother Paul, you can see how many thousands of Jews have become believers, and how devoted they all are to the Law.They have been told that you have been teaching all the Jews who live in Gentile countries to abandon the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or follow the Jewish customs.They are sure to hear that you have arrived. What should be done, then?This is what we want you to do. There are four men here who have taken a vow. Go along with them and join them in the ceremony of purification and pay their expenses; then they will be able to shave their heads. In this way everyone will know that there is no truth in any of the things that they have been told about you, but that you yourself life in accordance with the Law of Moses.But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent them a letter telling them we decided that they must not eat any food that has been offered to idols, or any blood, or any animal that has been strangled, and that they must keep themselves from sexual immorality. So Paul took the men and the next day performed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple and gave notice of how many days it would be until the end of the period of purification,when a sacrifice would be offered for each one of them. (Acts 21: 17-26. Today’s English Version)

The above ritual is core Old Testament system found in the Book of Numbers which symbolized forgiveness and remission of sins:

“When a Nazirite completes his vow, he shall perform the ritual. He shall go to the entrance of the Tent and present to the LORD three animals without any defects: a one-year-old male lamb for a burnt-offering, a one-year-old ewe lamb for a sin-offering, and a ram for a fellowship-offering.” (Numbers 6: 13-14, Today’s English Version)

Christians Scholars also agree that OT ritual as mentioned in Book of Numbers was used to purify and help remitting sins as they included SIN – OFFERINGS:

“And be at charges with them – Share with them the expense of the offerings required when the vow is completed. Those offerings were a ram of a year old for a burnt-offering, a sheep of the same age for sin-offering, a ram for a thank-offering, a basket of unleavened cakes, and a libation of wine.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Acts 21:24)

Here are multiple problems with the above account of Book of Acts:

(I) If James and his colleagues in the Jerusalem Church indeed believed like Paul that Christ (peace be upon him) has allegedly paid the most precious remission for their sins then why did they offered “sin-offering”?

(II) On the foregoing, if James and others believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) brought the Laws to an end then why did they at all care for the rituals of Book of Numbers – an OT Law.

(III) Why did Paul contradict his own teachings by not merely partaking but leading and even paying for the OT Laws and its rituals

a) Did he forget that his “lord and savior’s” has brought to end what he was executing?

b) Did not he had any scruple that by the mere “useless” and “outward rule” he would gain nothing but on the contrary, Christ’s (peace be upon him) precious (alleged) sacrifice would be rendered “vain”?

c) On what basis did “apostle” Paul partake in the “purification ceremony”? Was not Paul inspired enough to know that sins of believers were purged with the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)?

d) In fact by partaking in the ceremony, Paul jeopardized his salvation since he previously claimed (c.f. 1 Co 15:17) that if Christ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice did not provide salvation then the faith is in vain andsins remain!

The very reason that James and the majority of earliest Christians still believed in the viability of OT laws and its rituals, especially, when it included SIN – OFFERINGin it, sends more than a message that although they might have respected the alleged sacrifice but they did not considered it to be the only mode of salvation or perfect enough!

In fact there are numerous Jamesian verses which lends support to the notion that James and his colleagues did not believed faith in alleged crucifixion complete enough for salvation because James strongly exhorted (to the point of contravening Paul) his followers to complement faith with the works of the Laws (as contrary to Paul’s faith-only doctrine):
 
“My brother, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose
there are brothers and sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep
warm and eat well!” – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.” (James 2: 14-17)

“But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” Do :You believe that there is only one God? Good!The demons also believe – and tremble with fear. You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless?” (James 2: 18-20)

Conclusion
On one hand we have Paul and his doctrines which enjoins Christian believers that after Christ (peace be upon him) OT Laws were rendered ineffective and the only mode of remission of sins and salvation is through the alleged cross of Christ (peace be upon him). Nevertheless, this notion was not entirely accepted by theearliest Christians as a whole including contemporary apostles.

Even after Christ’s alleged perfect and precious sacrifice, James emphatically preached that Christians need to observe the OT Laws because it “sets people free” – once again James was preaching this after Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion.

In fact, James wrote multiple passages just to defend the notion that mere faith in Christ and the alleged cross would not suffice, it has to be complemented with the works of the Laws!

James and earliest Christians, even after the alleged crucifixion of Christ (peace be upon him), not merely observed the first ten moral commandments but even observed the OT rituals punctiliously – the same rituals which Paul imputed to be “useless” and merely “outward rules”. What is even interesting is that, these rituals even included SIN-OFFERING in the form of sacrifice of animals which specifically meant to remit sins!

It does not end here, Paul who was hitherto championing inefficacy of OT Laws and their “uselessness” and plasticity (“outward rules”) was found not merely observing OT rituals but even leading and bearing the expenses of it! Thus, either contradicting himself and his “divinely inspired inspirations” or establishing that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion is not imperative enough!

Even after all of James’ otherwise preaching, if more popular Christianity wants to do away with Jamesian epistles then they need to justify why they trump James to Paul. Remember, James was the one who met Jesus (peace be upon him) in person – not Paul. Therefore, if James is not greater than Paul then he is, at least, no less either and in this scenario there need to be strong enough grounds to reject James to Paul.

Related Articles:
 



End Notes:

Emphasize wherever not matching with the original, is ours.
Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical text is taken from King James Version, e-Sword Version.

https://discover-the-truth.com/2013/11/05/did-earliest-christians-believe-alleged-crucifixion-to-be-indispensible/

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Examining Pagan Sources On Jesus Crucifixion, Genuine or Hearsay?
By Kaleef K. Karim
 
Christian apologists are in a habit of using any source for the crucifixion of Jesus, even if an author did not refer to Jesus by his name, somehow they would mingle, spice their arguments up that the author(s) must have referred to Jesus. They don’t care whether a passage is a forgery or hearsay, they would add to their collection that Jesus crucifixion outside the Bible is 100% attested, when that is not true in reality.

The reason Apologists use various sources from non-Christian authors, they know that ‘thinking’ humans always need outside sources for them to be convinced that Jesus crucifixion is true in order for them to believe in Christianity. All the sources Christian apologists use are hearsay, because none of those so-called sources, apologists cite are eye-witness accounts. All the names provided that claim to attest to Jesus’s crucifixion lived long after Jesus. In other words, these authors mentioned never lived at the time when Jesus was alive.

 

Related Articles:
Was Jesus Hanged or Crucified?
Examining Jewish sources on Jesus Crucifixion, genuine or forgery?

 

CORNELIUS TACITUS (56 – 117 A.D.) Who was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The passage which is cited by Apologists on Jesus Crucifixion:

“Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, by through the city of Rome also.” Annals XV, 44

What the passage reveals is:

  • Tacitus doesn’t provide any source where he got this information from.
  • Tacitus names a person who was put to death and uses the name ‘Christus, which cannot be referred to Jesus. If Tacitus was indeed
    referring to Jesus and he got this information from the Roman archives, as Apologists assume, why didn’t Tacitus use Jesus name? Why did he just refer to the person being killed under Pilate by the name Christus?
  • Tacitus mentions that this person (Christus) was put to death by “Pilate procurator”. What we know historically contradicts what Tacitus
    says. Pilate was not a “procurator” but a ‘prefect’.

Even if we assume for sake of argument that this passage refers to Jesus, Tacitus most certainly received this information from hearsay.
There is absolutely nothing in this passage which can be taken as proof that Jesus was crucified. Most probably Tacitus heard rumours about a
man called ‘christus’ and wrote something about it. Scholars are also of the opinion that Tacitus’s statement was taken from other Christians.
Then, such source cannot be independent information. He is merely repeating what other Christians are saying about Jesus, and most
Christians themselves would boast, exaggerate things.

German Professor Leonhard Goppelt writes:


“We would be very much inclined to ascribe special significance to non-Christian information about Jesus because of its ostensible lack of bias. Our expectations would be high, e.g., if the trial folios of Pilate should be discovered on a piece of papyrus. In all probability, however, such a discovery would lead to disappointment since they would offer only a sum of misunderstandings, much like the accounts of Plinius about the Christians. Such is the confirmed the small number of extant non-Christian sources of information about Jesus from the 1st and 2nd centuries. AMONG THE ROMAN HISTORIANS, JESUS IS MENTIONED ONLY ONCE EACH BY TACITUS AND SUETONIUS.
WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY ABOUT HIM CA. A.D, 110 HAS BEEN TAKEN FROM STATEMENTS OF CHRISTIANS
. This fact is not astonishing at all since, after all, for the empire in this period, the activity of Jesus and his disciples was nothing more than a remote affair with hardly more than local significance.” [1]


Professor Richard Thomas France says:


“THE BRIEF NOTICE IN TACITUS ANNALS XV.44 MENTIONS ONLY HIS TITLE, CHRISTUS, AND HIS EXECUTION IN JUDEA BY ORDER OF PONTIUS PILATUS. NOR IS THERE ANY REASON TO BELIEVE THAT TACITUS BASES THIS ON INDEPENDENT INFORMATION-IT IS WHAT CHRISTIANS WOULD BE SAYING IN ROME IN THE EARLY SECOND CENTURY. Suetonius and Pliny, together with Tacitus, testify to the significant presence of Christians in Rome and other parts of the empire from the mid-sixties onwards, but add nothing to our knowledge of their founder. No other clear pagan references to Jesus can be dated before AD 150/1/, by which time the source of any information is more likely to be Christian propaganda than an independent record.” [2]


American New Testament Scholar Bart D. Ehrman also writes on Tacitus’s passage, he says:


“…would Tacitus know what he knew? It is pretty obvious that he had heard of Jesus, but he was writing eighty-five years after Jesus would have died, and by that time Christians were certainly telling stories of Jesus (the Gospels had been written already, for example), whether the mythcists are wrong or right. IT SHOULD BE CLEAR IN ANY EVENT THAT TACITUS IS BASING HIS COMMENT ABOUT JESUS ON HEARSAY RATHER THAN, SAY DETAILED HISTORICAL RESEARCH. Had he done serious research, one might have expected him to say more, if he even just a bit. But even more to the point, brief though his comment is, Tacitus is precisely wrong in one thing he says. He calls Pilate the ‘procurator’ of Judea. We now know from the inscription discovered in 1961 at Caesarea that as governor, Pilate had the title and rank, not of procurator (one who dealt principally with revenue collection), but of prefect (one who also had military forces at his command). This must show that Tacitus did not look up any official record of what happened to Jesus, written at the time of his execution (if in fact such a record ever existed, which is highly doubtful). He therefore had heard the information. Whether he heard it from Christians or someone else is anyone’s guess.“ [3]

What I stated at the start that, most probable is that, the statement of Tacitus was not independent research; the Scholars quoted, confirmed this that Tacitus statement cannot be taken as independent information. He is just repeating what others are saying, his information is derived from hearsay.

THALLUS is another historian quoted by apologists that, he wrote something on the midday darkness linked up to Jesus crucifixion, of the Gospels. There are no fragments that have survived from his works, all of it has perished. Thallus statement is quoted by Africanus in the second century (or third century A.D.). Here is the passage:

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness. The rocks were rent by an earthquake and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior falls on the day before the passover. But an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time… Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth-manifestly that one of which we speak.” Chronography XVIII, 47

Reading the passage, we do not know what Thallus actually wrote. All we have is Africanus commenting and dismissing Thallus statement on the eclipse. Christian apologists have connected Thallus statement about the darkness that befall Judea with Jesus crucifixion, they try to connect the two, as if Thallus is talking about the same event, in the same year. All we have is Thallus making a comment of a supernatural event of an eclipse, and apologists have stretched his statement connecting it to Jesus crucifixion. There is absolutely nothing in this passage for anyone to be convinced that Thallus mentioned anything about Jesus. The most logical conclusion regarding this passage is Thallus merely reported on a solar eclipse then later Christians associated it with the crucifixion.

Reverend Nathaniel Lardner D.D. who was an English theologian goes in great detail on Thallus statement, he writes:

“IV. Thallus, a Syrian author is sometimes alleged by learned moderns, as bearing witness to the darkness at the time of our saviour’s passion. Whether there be any good reason for so doing, may appear from a few observations. In the fragments of Africanus, which are in the Chronicle of G. Synecellus of the eighth century, and in the collections of Eusebius’s Greek Chronicle, as made by Joseph Scaliger, that very learned ancient Christian writer says,
“There was a dreadful darkness over the whole world, and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many buildings were overturned in Judea, and in other parts of the earth. This darkness Thallus calls an eclipse of the sub, in the third book of his histories: but as seems to me, very improperly; for the Jews keep the Passover in the fourteenth day of the moon; at which time an eclipse of the sun is impossible.”
Upon this passage I must observe, 1. THAT IT APPEARS ONLY IN THE FRAGMENTS OF AFRICANUS; WHEREAS IT OFTEN HAPPENS THAT, IN COLLECTIONS OF THAT KIND, WE DO NOT FIND SO MUCH ACCURACY AS COULD BE WISHED. 2. THE WORDS OF THALLUS ARE NOT CITED: FOR WHICH REASON WE CANNOT PRESUME TO FORM A JUDGMENT CONCERNING WHAT HE SAID. 3. This passage of Thallus is no where quoted or referred to by any other ancient writer that I know of. It is not in any work of Eusebius, excepting those Greek collections of his chronicle, which are very inaccurate and imperfect: nor is there any notice taken of it in Jerome’s version of the Chronicle.
The time of Thallus seems not be exactly known. If indeed there was anything in his history relating to transactions in Judea in the time of our saviour, he must have lived between that time and Africanus; but of that we want some farther proof. In Eusebius’s Evangelical preparation is quoted a long passage of Africanus, from the third book of his Chronology; where are mentioned, all together, Diodorus, Thallus, Castor, Polybius , and Phlegon. And afterwards Hellanicus and Philochorus, who wrot a history of Syria; Diodorus, and Alexander Polyhistor. Whereby we learn that Thallus was a Syrian, who wrote in the Greek language.


Thallus is quoted by divers ancient Christian writers. Justin Martyr, in his exhortation to the Greeks, allegeth Hellanicus, Philochorus, Castor, and Thallus, as bearing witness to the antiquity of Moses, the Jewish lawgiver.
Tertullian and Minucius Felix quote Thallus and divers other authors, as acknowledging Saturn to have been a man who had lived on this earth. Thallus and other writers are quoted with a like view by Lactantius. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch about the year 180, in his atter to Autolicus, quotes Thalluys, to prove that Belus lived long before the Trojan War; which passage is quoted again from Theophilus by Lactantius. All these quotations of THALLUS APPEAR TO BE MADE PROPERLY: AND HE IS SO QUOTED WITH OTHER WRITERS OF ANTIQUITY, THAT ONE MIGHT BE APT TO THINK THAT HE LIVED RATHER BEFORE THAN AFTER OUR SAVIOURS COMING; nor is there anything here said of an eclipse, which may induce us to think that the passage in the fragments of Africanus is not material. Indeed if I was unwilling to admit anything disrespectful to the memory of so great and learned an ancient as Africanus, I SHOULD SUSPECT THAT THE ECLIPSE MENTIONED BY THALLUS, (WHENEVER IT HAPPENED,) WAS A NATURAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN. FOR IT IS NOT LIKELY THAT A LEARNED HISTORIAN, AS THALLUS WAS, SHOULD USE THAT EXPRESSION CONCERNING ANY OTHER DARKNESS OR OBSCURITY. CONSEQUENTLY, WHAT HE SAID COULD NOT HAVE ANY REFERENCE TO THE DARKNESS IN JUDEA AT THE TIME OF OUR SAVIOUR’S LAST SUFFERINGS.” [4]

Retired Professor George Albert Wells:

“THE RELEVANT ARTICLE IN A STANDARD CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS ENCYCLOPEDIA NOTES CURTLY THAT “THALLUS CANNOT BE CONSIDERED AS WITNESSING” TO EVENTS IN JESUS’S LIFE.
Jacoby notes that it is not certain from what Africanus said that Thallus made any mention of Jesus or Jewish history at all, and may simply have recorded the eclipse of the sun in the reign of Tiberius, for which astronomers have calculated the date 24 November A.D. 29; it may have been Africanus who introduced Jesus by retorting- from his knowledge of Mark- that this was no eclipse, but a supernatural event. That this may be so is conceded by R.T. France who, having studied both Bruce’s argument and my reply to it in DJE, comments: “We do not know whether Thallus actually mentioned Jesus’s crucifixion or whether this was Africanus’s interpretation of a period of darkness which Thallus had not specifically linked with Jesus.” France also rejects the confident statement that Thallus wrote “about A.D. 52”, and says that ‘his date of writing is not known’….” [5]

The evidence presented again for another so-called historian, cited by Christian Apologists, is refuted by their own Christian experts that, what Thallus mentioned was most likely just an eclipse and had nothing to do with Jesus crucifixion.

MARA BAR SERAPION Who is only known for writing a letter to his son while in captivity, which allegedly speaks about Jesus. Let’s read the passage and see if there is any mention of Jesus of the Gospels:

“What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plaque came upon them as a judgement 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, that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians clied 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 the teaching of Plato.”

There nothing whatsoever in this passage that says anything about Jesus. It doesn’t say where this ‘wise king’ lived. It doesn’t mention how this ‘wise king’ was killed. It just mentions that Jews killed the ‘wise king’, that is it! How can apologists be 100% sure that this is referring to Jesus Christ of the Gospels, when there is no detail whatsoever to know, who Serapion is speaking about? If Serapion wanted to refer to Jesus in this passage, why didn’t he do so by name, as he done with Socrates and Pythagoras? Why did he just say a ‘wise king’ got killed by the Jews and left it at that?

Conclusion: The sources cited by apologists on Jesus crucifixion are worthless. The evidences presented by scholars would make anyone think, these passages cited by Christian apologists are useless. The best we can say is that, these passages cited are second-hand hearsay of what they heard from other Christians say. None of these authors cited by Christians are contemporary eye-witness accounts of Jesus life. All the authors mentioned by Christians, in defence of Jesus crucifixion, never lived at the time when Jesus was alive. Isn’t it ironic that there is not one contemporary writer when Jesus was alive, that mentions anything about Jesus crucifixion outside the New Testament?

References:

[1] The Ministry of Jesus in Its Theological Significance by Leonhard Goppelt Volume 1 [Copy Right 1981] page 18 – 19
[2] The Gospels As Historical Sources For Jesus,The Founder Of Christianity by Professor R. T. France http://leaderu.com/truth/1truth21.html
[3] Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth By Bart D. Ehrman
[4] The works of Nathaniel Lardner D.D. With A Life by Dr. Kippis (1835) volume 7 page 121 – 123
[5] The Jesus Legend By George Albert Wells page 43 – 46

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The Early Christians Who Believed Jesus Was Saved From Crucifixion

After the deity of Jesus, the crucifixion is perhaps the most contested issue about his life between Christians and Muslims. Today his death on the cross is taken as an almost indisputable fact of history, to the point where it’s not even questioned. Yet the Qur’an makes the bold claim that he was not crucified. Is it possible that the Qur’an, written some 600 years after Jesus, could be right? This article is going to show that there were in fact early Christian groups who believed that Jesus was not crucified, just as the Qur’an proclaims.
WHAT Islam TEACHES ABOUT THE CRUCIFIXION

This is what the Qur’an says about the crucifixion of Jesus:

They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him. God raised him up to Himself. God is almighty and wise. [4:157-158]

We can see that the Qur’an states that Jesus was not crucified; rather it was made to appear so. What “though it was made to appear like that to them” means is a topic of discussion among scholars. A major view is that God gave someone else Jesus’ appearance and it was this other person who was substituted for Jesus on the cross, causing his enemies to believe that Jesus was crucified. We find support for this view in the narrations of one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, Ibn Abbas. He stated:

“Just before God raised Jesus to the Heavens, Jesus went to his disciples, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping with water (as if he had just had a bath) and he said, ‘There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after you had believed in me.’ He then asked, ‘Who among you will volunteer for his appearance to be transformed into mine, and be killed in my place. Whoever volunteers for that, he will be with me (in Heaven).’ One of the youngest ones among them volunteered, but Jesus asked him to sit down. Jesus asked again for a volunteer, and the same young man volunteered and Jesus asked him to sit down again. Then the young man volunteered a third time and Jesus said, ‘You will be that man,’ and the resemblance of Jesus was cast over that man while Jesus ascended to Heaven from a hole in the roof of the house. When the Jews came looking for Jesus, they found that young man and crucified him…” [1]

We can see that the Qur’an and other Islamic sources are crystal clear: God saved His beloved messenger from the crucifixion. Jesus was raised up to God, alive and unharmed, where he remains until this day. We find support for the Qur’anic crucifixion narrative in history. There were early Christian groups who denied the crucifixion of Jesus, such as the first century scholar Basilides and his followers, the Basilidians. They believed that Jesus was saved from the crucifixion and that another, Simon of Cyrene, was crucified in his place:

“The Unborn and Nameless Father seeing their miserable plight, sent his First-born, Nous (and this is the one who is called Christ) to deliver those who should believe in him from the power of the angelic agencies who had built the world. And to men Christ seemed to be a man and to have performed miracles. It was not, however, Christ who suffered, but rather Simon of Cyrene, who was constrained to carry the cross for him, and mistakenly crucified in Christ’s stead…” [2]

The beliefs of Basilides matter because he was living very close to the time of the disciples, and there are even traditions that he got these teachings from disciples of Jesus such as Peter [3]. From this account we can see that it’s not the Qur’an that invented this claim that Jesus was saved from the crucifixion, it goes back to the earliest time of Church history.
ANSWERING THE CLAIM THAT SUCH GROUPS WERE HERETICAL

Now, critics tend to discredit groups such as the Basilidians by appealing to the writings of Church Fathers who condemned them as heretical. Sadly, nearly all the writings of such groups have perished, and we mostly know of them through the writings of their opponents. It is a well known fact among historians that Church Fathers would exaggerate to the extreme when writing about other Christian sects with whom they did not agree.

For example, the second century theologian Irenaeus claimed that the followers of Valentinus made indiscriminate copulation not only permissible but a desired act for those who are truly spiritual [4], and that the Carpocratians practiced indiscriminate sex and that their theology compelled them to violate every conceivable moral law and ethical norm [5]. Perhaps the most outrageous example occurs near the end of the fourth century in the writings of the bishop Epiphanius, who in his discussion of a group of Gnostic Christians outlines their beliefs and describes their orgiastic and cannibalistic practices. Epiphanius claimed that they indulged in sumptuous feasts, with married couples separating to engage in sexual intercourse with other members of the community [6]. The couples are alleged to have then collected the semen in their hands and ingested it together while proclaiming, “this is the body of Christ.” The couple also collected and consumed the woman’s menstrual blood, saying “this is the blood of Christ” [7]. If for some reason the women became pregnant, the fetus was allowed to develop until it could be manually aborted. Then, claims Epiphanius, it was dismembered, covered with honey and spices, and devoured by the community as a special meal [8].

With the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in the 20th century we have been able to study the actual writings of a bewildering variety of Gnostic Christians. A lot of the claims made by the Church Fathers against such groups were proven to be false, as far from condoning, let alone promoting, such outlandish moral behavior, their writings urge and assume just the contrary social and personal ethics. One of the few constants among all the Nag Hammadi writings is their ascetic orientation. Gnostic Christians appear to have believed, as a rule, in punishing the body, not indulging it. They endorsed ascetic lifestyles far from the hedonistic debauchery that the Church Fathers alleged. Apparently then, Gnostics were consistently attacked by orthodox Christians as sexually perverse, not because they actually were perverse but because they were the enemy.

In fact, a lot of what we know about the early Church comes from the third century Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea who pioneered work giving a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity. He is often called the “Father of Church History.” But he is not a reliable source of information as he openly admits to lying in order to propagate what he believes is the truth. In his work, Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel), Book 12, Chapter 31 is titled as follows [9]:

“That it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment.”

Eusebius makes it absolutely clear in his teachings that lying is necessary when it comes to the Gospel message. Chapter 31 reads as follows:

“But even if the case were not such as our argument has now proved it to be, if a lawgiver, who is to be of ever so little use, could have ventured to tell any falsehood at all to the young for their good, is there any falsehood that he could have told more beneficial than this, and better able to make them all do everything that is just, not by compulsion but willingly?” [10]

According to Eusebius it’s okay to lie, it’s okay to hold a false belief, if in the end the lie benefits someone. Eusebius, like most Christians today, held the death and resurrection of Jesus to be an essential belief for salvation. Based on Eusebius’ own principles then, there is no doubt that he would have been willing to lie about other groups who deny the crucifixion in order to protect what he would have seen as an essential truth. For Eusebius, the ends justify the means. It would therefore be difficult to believe that his writings are historically accurate and objective. His representations of competing groups of Christian sects are very likely not impartial.

In summary, we should take any claims of heresy made against early Christian groups who believed that Jesus was not crucified, with a pinch of salt. History is written by the winners, and much of what we know about these early groups has been painted by their opponents.
DID GOD DECEIVE THE WORLD?

A charge sometimes made against the Qur’an is that God ‘deceived’ people with the appearance of the crucifixion. The matter of the crucifixion was controversial in the formative years. The truth was “out there”, and one of my previous articles (please click this link here) shows how the Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would not be harmed. So, the evidence that Jesus the Messiah could not be crucified is present within the Bible. Now, if some people of the past didn’t have access to the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and they thought Jesus was crucified, then according to the Qur’an they would not be blameworthy in the sight of God: “God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear…” [2:286] Here the Qur’an states that God does not hold people to account for what is beyond their capacity. Now that the final revelation, the Qur’an, has been revealed and clears up the misconceptions about Jesus, people have no excuse for ignorance. The test of life is to see if truth is what matters to you, as opposed to what is convenient or fits your desires, and ultimately you are judged on your honest commitment to follow the truth as it appears to you. It’s important to realise that life is a test. God is testing us in this life to distinguish those who believe from those who disbelieve: “Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and God will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars” [29:2-3]. Such a claim about God deceiving us could be made about anything that seems confusing, contradictory or that needs a bit of investigation.
Sources

This article has been taken from the book “Jesus: Man, Messenger, Messiah” which can be ordered and downloaded for free from here.

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