Book Review

THE REVIEWOF RELIGIONS 49 Jesus was a beloved one of God. Will not God accept his prayers? In the Sermon on the Mount, he had said: “Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? (Math. 7 : 9-10). It is inconceivable that God would not hear his prayers and let him die a premature and disgraceful death at the hands of his enemies. God in his grace and mercy always delivers his dear ones from their enemies and thus shows his signs and power. On the cross in pain and anguish and momentary despair, Jesus cried out: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli lema, Sabachthani” that is, “My God, my God why have Thou forsaken me?” This was a heart rendering cry for help of God. God did not abandon him. Divine help came. God brought about such circumstances that Jesus was saved from death on the corss. His prayers were heard. ATTITUDE OF PONTIUS PILATE We learn from all the accounts in the gospels that Pontius Pilate was extremely sympathetic to Jesus. After he had questioned Jesus he did not find him guilty. He was convinced of his innocence. We read in Luke, Pilate said: “Now I have examined him here in your presence and I have not found him guilty of any crimes you accuse him of. Nor did Herod find him guilty, for he sent him back to us. There is nothing this man has done to deserve death. So I will have him whipped and let him go.” (Luke 23 : 14-16) Pilate wanted to free him but he gave in to pressure from Jews who claimed that Jesus considered himself a King of the Jews and was a rebel. They reminded Pilate that if he freed Jesus, he would prove himself to be no friend of Caesar. Pilate agreed to sentence of crucifixion against his wishes. He was afraid that a riot may break out if he freed Jesus. He washed his hands :n a symbolic fashion saying that he was not responsible for the death of Jesus. (Math 27: 29) While Pilate was sitting in judgement hall, his wife sent him a message: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man because in a dream last night I suffered much on account of him.” (Math. 27 : 19). The purpose of this dream and message to Pilate was not to kill Jesus. When Joseph was shown in a dream that he should take baby Jesus to Egypt the purpose was to save Jesus from being killed by Herod. Similarly, the purpose of this true dream of Pilate’s wife was to save Jesus from death on corss. In spite of agreeing to crucifixion of Jesus, Pilate must have made efforts in secret designed to save Jesus from death. Following points should be noted. 50 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 1. Pilate appointed Friday as the day of trial knowing full well that crucified persons could not be left on cross after sunset as it was the start of Jewish sabbath. And he knew that a few hours on the cross during the day will not kill Jesus. 2. The centurian or the army officer which Pilate appointed was sympa- thetic to Jesus. He believed that Jesus was true in his claims as he said at the time of earthquake, “He really was son of God”. (Math. 27 : 59) 3. Jesus’s legs were not broken as that of bandits were to kill them. A few hours on cross were not sufficient to kill the crucified. Bandits were still alive. It is stated in the gospels that they did not break Jesus’s legs as they thought he was already dead. Either they were mistaken in this con- clusion or the other possibility is that this was an excuse to spare Jesus’s life on instructions from Pilate. 4. Pilate readily agreed to hand his body to his secret disciple Joseph of Arrmathea. He handed over Jesus to his friends and well wishers and not to his enemies. Probably he was told secretly that Jesus was still alive and could be revived if placed in the tomb and treated. DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION A SLOW PROCESS Death by crucifixion was always a slow process. The purpose of crucifixion was not to kill directly but to kill by slow torture. Victims died slowly due to pain, exhaustion, and dehydration and it took several days, generally three or four, to accomplish this. Jesus remained on the cross from three to six hours which was not long enough to kill a young man with robust health. Two bandits who were on the corss for the same time did not die and to kill them their legs were broken. But that of Jesus spared. Pilate was amazed when he heard that Jesus had died. He must have known by experience that only a few hours on the corss was not sufficient to kill a man. Several biographers of Jesus of relatively recent times have expressed grave doubts about death of Jesus on the corss. William Hanna writes: “Crucifixion was a much more lingering kind of death, and, in its earlier stages much less excruciating than we are apt to imagine or than otherwise it would have been. As there was but little loss of blood, the nails that pierced the extremities touching no large blood vessels and closing the wounds they made. The death which followed re- sulted from the processes of bodily exhaustion and irritation; and these were so slow that in no case, where the person crucified was in ordinary health and vigour, did they terminate within twelve hours. Almost invari- THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 51 ably he survived the first twenty-four hours, lived generally over the second, occasionally even into the fifth or sixth day. The ancient testimonies to this fact are quite explicit, nor are the modern ones wanting, although there are but few parts of the world now where crucifixion is practiced. I was told, says Captain Clapperton, speaking of capital punishments infli- cted in Soudan, a district of Africa, that wretches on the corss generally linger three days before death puts an end to their’suffering.1 William Stroud writes, “A fact of importance to be known, but which has not been sufficiently regarded, is that crucifixion was a very lingering punishment, and proved fatal not so much by loss of blood, since the wounds in the hands and feet did not lacerate any large vessel, and were nearly closed by the nails which produced them, as by the slow process of nervous irritation and exhaustion. This would of course be liable to variety, depending on differences of age, sex, constitution, and other circumstances; but for persons to live two or more days on the cross was common occu- rence, and there are even instances of some who, having beek taken down in time and carefully treated, recovered and survived. In many cases death was partly induced by hunger and thirst, the vicissitudes of heat and cold, or the attacks of ravenous birds and beasts; and in others was designedly accelerated by burning, stoning, suffocation, breaking the bones, or pierc- ing the vital organs.”2 “But the sudden death of a young and robust man, after a crucifixion of only six hours, was extraordinary, and to them unaccountable.”3 “The scourging, mockery, and labour of carrying the corss were not in themselves more distressing to Jesus than to the malefactors who accom- panied him; his fasting and watching had not, at farthest, continued longer than from the preceding evening; his removal from place to place was not likely to be attended with much fatigue, since all the places lay within a narrow compass; and heat of climate could not have been very oppressive in Jerusalem at the vernal equinox to a native of the country; more especi- ally, when it is considered that, during the last three hours of his life, from the sixth to the ninth hour, the sun was obscured, and that in the much hotter climate of Central Africa crucified persons usually live three days on the cross.”4 Ernest Renan writes: “It is evident, in fact, that doubts arose as to the reality of the death of Jesus. A few hours of supension on the cross appeared to those accustomed to see crucifixions entirely insufficient to bring about such a result. They cited many instances of persons cru- cified, who had been removed in time and brought back to life again by energetic treatment. Origen, later on, thought it needful to invoke a miracle in order to explain so sudden an end. The same surprise is discovered in the 52 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS narrative of Mark. Pilate was astonished that Jesus was so soon dead.”5 While on the corss, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani”. Soon after he again cried with a loud voice before his sup- posed death. This is most unusual. Before death on the corss Jesus would be in critical condition. As is observed from patients in critical condition before their death, they do not have strength to cry aloud. What is more likely is that Jesus cried aloud and then fainted. We read in the gospel of John: “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came blood and water.” (John 19 : 34) Piercing the side of Jesus by a soldier and consequent flowing out of blood is a clear cut sign that heart activity and circulation was intact, and Jesus was still alive. After death, if the body is pierced the blood does not flow. After Jesus was taken down from corss, his body was handed over to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both secret disciples of Jesus. They kept Jesus in a large sepulchre in a garden, hewn out of rock. It was a large air chamber like a room as it could hold many persons as is apparent from various descriptions. Jesus was treated. They wrapped his body in linen cloth impregnated with spices. With effects of lying in recumbent position in cool airy chamber, which restores fallen blood pressure of a person wKo has fainted in verticle position, and stimulation of aromatic spices, Jesus recovered consciousness. His wounds were treated so that he was able to leave the sepulchre with the help of his secret disciples who were members of brotherhood of Esseens. His recovery was the explaination of so called resurrection and he was said to have “arisen”. There is no eyewitness account stating that he was dead when placed in the tomb and there is no eyewitness account of resurrection. CONTRADICTORY REPORTS Who first gave the news about the resurrection? Who was in the tomb at the time Mary Magdelene and the other women visited the tomb on Sunday morning? Where did they first see Jesus? Where did Jesus first meet his disciples after leaving the tomb and how many appearances did he make and to whom? The reports about these events in New Testament are all contradictory. On such circumstances of contradictory reports, the mere assertion that Jesus had died on the corss is not reliable when none of the disciples or writers of gospels were present at the scene of the crucifixion. FURTHER EVIDENCE FROM GOSPELS Before Jesus was brought down from the cross there were very con- fusing circumstances. The curtain hanging in the temple was torn in two. THE REVIEWOF RELIGIONS 53 There was an earthquake. It had become very dark since noon. In these unusual circumstances, it was not extraordinary that Jesus was mistaken dead. Even in these days of modern medicine, there have been rare instances when a physician has made a mistake about clinical death of a patient and pronounced dead someone who was actually found alive later. After women had visited the tomb on Sunday morning and had been told that Jesus had “arisen” and would meet his disciples in Galilee, they were terrified. We read: “So they went out and ran from the tomb, dis- tressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 10 : 8). It is worth pondering as to why were they so terrified that they did not say anything to anyone. The reality was that when they learn- ed that Jesus was still alive, they were afraid for his life that he may not be rearrested. After coming out of the tomb, Jesus’s behaviour was significant that he only appeared to his disciples. He had probably disguised as Mary Magda- lene thought he was a gardner and did not recognized Jesus at first. He walked on foot annonymously as an obscure traveller on the road to Emmaus, a village near Jerusalem. All the appearances of Jesus were confin- ed to his disciples and these were made in private and in secret and were quite sparce considering that he is reported to be in the area for forty days before his parting. At times he went to see his disciples when the doors were kept closed for secrecy and fear of Jews. He made no appearances to his opponents. Why was he affraid if he had become alive after death on the cross? If he could conquer death, what else he could be afraid of? The simple fact is that he had escaped death on the cross and was now in hiding. He was afraid that he may be rearrested and face another ordeal. We read in Luke: ‘They were terrified thinking that they were seeing a ghost. But he said to them “Why are you alarmed? Why are these doubts coming up in your mind? Look at my hands and see that it is I myself. Feel me and you will know, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you can see I have.” He said this and showed them his hands and feet. They still could not believe, they were so full of joy and wpnder, so he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of cooked fish which he took and ate in their presence.” (Luke 24 : 37-43) In all probability, disciples had given him up as dead mistakenly and were so surprised to see him still alive. If Jesus had actually become alive after being dead as resurrection implies, it is reasonable to assume that he had some sort of spiritual body as it is generally believed that soul after death takes on a spiritual body. But Jesus had same mortal body as proven by his feeling hungry, eating and drinking and travelling on foot to Galilee and persistent fear of rearrest. He still had healing wounds and their scars 54 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS on his hands and on his side which he showed to doubting Thomas. He had same body of flesh and bones. What could be greater proof that he had escaped death on the cross? Jesus, by showing his body and wounds to his disciples was emphasizing that he was no spirit who had arisen from dead but he was the same person still alive. Thus is obvious that Jesus was still alive with the same mortal body. He had not died on the cross. He had fainted and was in serious condition due to trauma of crucifixion. He was probably mistaken as dead. But with the grace of God and help from his secret disciples he recovered and was able to leave the room like tomb on the third day. He had “arisen” not from death but from a state resembling death. It was certainly miraculous as his enemies had planned to kill him. St. Paul who abolished the Mosaic law said about Jesus: “But to redeem us from the curse of law, being made a curse for us, for it is written “cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” (Gal. 3 : 31). In above words St. Paul declares the law as a curse and that Jesus redeemed them from this curse of law having died an accursed death on the cross. One shudders at the implication of curse associated with Jesus as St. Paul declares. Curse of God implies that Jesus was made devoid of God’s love and that his heart darkened with unfaithfulness. Jesus was beloved of God and his faithful prophet. It is a great injustice and cruel to associate such thoughts of a curse with Jesus. Merciful God saved Jesus from such a disgraceful death and thus exalted him and proved him to be a true prophet and a true “Son of God”, meaning a beloved of God. OINTMENT OF JESUS Another unusual proof that Jesus did not die on the corss is the mention of MARHAM-I-ISA or the “ointment of Jesus” in the ancient and medieval books on medicine. List of such medical books runs into hundreds. Along with giving the formula of this ointment, it is stated that this oint- ment was prepared by the disciples for Jesus’s wounds. Some of these medical books were compiled by Christian physicians, some by Jewish physicians, and others by Muslim physicians. Most books are very old. At first an old pharmaceutical work in Latin was compiled soon after event of corss which mentioned this ointment alongwith statement that this preparation was prepared for the wounds of Jesus. Later this work was translated into several languages including into Arabic at the time of Caliph Mamum-al-Rashid. These old books on medicine state that this ointment is very useful in cases of injury due to blows or falls, arresting promptly the flow of blood, and as it also contained Myrrh, the wound remains aseptic. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of Ahmadiyya movement THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 55 in Islam, has given a long list of those medical books in his book, JESUS IN INDIA. Out of this long list we quote the following two: 1. QANUN, By SHAIKH-UL-RAIS BU ALI SINA, Volume III, Page 133 (Canon of Avicenna) 2. QARABADIN-I-RUMI (Roman Pharmacopes), compiled about the time of Jesus and translated into Arabic in the reign of Mamun-al-Rashid. The first book mentioned is by world famous medieval physician and philosopher, Bu-Ali-Sina, known in the West as Avicenna. H’s book of medicine Qanun (Canon) remained medical text in Europe for centuries. Following is the formula of ointment of Jesus as given by Avicenna. 1. Gum Ammonicum 2. Aristalochia Longa 3. Plumbi Oxidum 4. Olibanum 5. Resin 6. Resin of Pinuslongifolia 7. Galibanum 8. Sub Acetate of Copper 9. GumGugal 10. Myrrh 11. Wax 12. Olive Oil Jesus healed others. This ointment healed Jesus! Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, writes in his book, JESUS IN INDIA: “These books have been mentioned here by way of illustration. Learned people, especially physicians, know that most of these books, in times gone by, were taught at important places of learning under Muslim rule; even scholars from Europe studied them. It is a fact, and there is not the slightest exaggeration about it, that in every century there have been millions of people who have been acquainted with these books; hundreds of thousands of them have been studying them from end to end. I can assert that not a single person from among the learned people of Europe and Asia has been ignorant of the names of at least some of the books in the above list. When Spain and Qastmonia and Shantrin had universities, Bu-Ali-Sina’s great Qanun, a great medical work in which there 56 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS is set out the prescription for Marham-i-Isa and other books such as Shifa and Isharat and Basharat pertaining to science, astronomy and philosophy, were eagerly studied and learnt by the Europeans. Likewise, works of Abu Nasr Farabi, Abu Raihan, Israil, Thabit bin Qurrah, Hunain bin Ishaq, and Ishaq, etc — all luminaries of learning — and translations made by them from Greek were also taught. Translations of their works would certainly be found to exist in Europe even today. As Muslim rulers were keen patrons of medicine, they prepared translations of good Greek works. The supreme authority of Khilafat vested for a long time in kings who desired expansion of knowledge rather than the extension of their dominions. That was why they not only had Greek books translated into Arabic but also invited learn- ed Pandits from India, and got them to translate medical and other books, paying them high remuneration. One of the greatest debts that seekers of true knowledge owe to them, therefore, is that they prepared trnslations of Latin and Greek medical books which contained a mention of the “Oint- ment Jesus”, and which, almost as an inscription, recorded the fact that the ointment had been prepared for the wounds of Jesus.”6 ASCENTION The legend of Ascention is the result of gradual glorification of Jesus and confusing heaven with sky. John and Mathew say nothing at all about asention. If such an unusual event had occurred would they have omited it? According to Mathew, Jesus last met his disciples at the hill in Galilee. What happened to Jesus after that? Matthew is silent. According to John, Jesus last met his disciples at Lake Tiberias. According to Mark after Jesus appeared to eleven disciples in Jeru- salem presumably the same day as resurrection, Jesus was taken up to heaven. Says Mark: “After the Lord Jesus had talked with them, he was taken up to heaven and sat at the right side of God” (Mark 16 : 19). This is a mere statement of belief rather than a historical event which was observed. They could not be witness to Jesus sitting on the right side of God. Moreover, it is universally recognized that the last ten verses of Mark are a later addition, that leaves Luke only who says: “as he was blessing them, he departed from them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke 24 : 51) This happened at Bathany near city. Only credible thing about this state- ment is that Jesus said farewell to his disciples and departed from them from some unknown place. Many Biblical scholars think that the words “taken up into heaven” is an interpolation. Luke contradicts himself in Acts and says that Jesus remained in the land for forty days. At the Mount of Olives he said farewell to his disciples. “After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him and a cloud hid him from sight.” (Acts 1 :9) THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 57 From this it appears that when Jesus bade farewell and departed from his disciples on the Mount of Olives, there was a low cloud or mist which hid Jesus. Apart from contradictions, can anyone believe that Jesus with a physical body like all human beings was lifted into sky. Even if he could be lifted up with some miracle would he have reached heaven? Is heaven a habitat in the space for humans? In todays space age we can watch astro- nauts disappear into the sky. Can we assume that if they went high enough they will reach Heaven? According to all religions heaven or hell is for souls in life after death. Jesus was alive and with the physical body. Thus, without passing through the gate of death he could not enter or leave for heaven. Ascention, like resurrection, is a pure legend and a myth. WHERE DID JESUS GO But question does arise as to where did Jesus go after he bade farewell to his disciples. This is the unknown life of Jesus to which he had alluded in his remarks. “And other sheep I have, which are n^/c of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice and there shall be one fold and one shepherd”. (John 10 : 16) “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Math. 15 : 24) It is a historical fact that at the time of Jesus only two tribes of Israelites were settled in Judea. The other ten tribes had been dispersed to the Eastern countries after Babylonian captivity. They had settled in Afghanistan and Kashmir in northern India and the adjacent regions. After the event of crucifixion, Jesus despaired of the Jews in Judea and under divine guidance left Palestine and went in search of the “lost sheep” or lost tribes of Israelites in the East. He travelled east as far as India and eventually settled in Kashmir, (in northern India) where there were numerous Jewish tribes already settled in diaspora. He preached his message to them and was accepted. As history tells us he lived to ripe old age and after his death was buried in Srinagar, the capitol of Kashmir, where his very tomb which bears his name has been discovered. This subject will be taken up in later capters. REFERENCES 1. Hanna, William, The Life of Christ, Vol. Ill, pp. 325 – 29. 58 THE REVIEWOF RELIGIONS 2. Stroud, William, On the Physical Cause of the Death of Christ, p. 55. 3. Ibid, p. 133. 4. Ibid, pp. 123-124. 5. Renan, Ernest, The Life of Jesus, p. 371. 6. Ghulam Ahmad, Hazrat Mirza, Jesus In India, pp. 68 – 69. An essential teaching for you is that you should not discard the Holy Quran, for therein is your life. Those who honour the Quran will be honoured in heaven. Those who prefer the Quran to every hadees and every other saying, will receive preference in heaven. For mankind there is no book in the world except the Quran, and for all children of Adam, there is no Messenger and intercessor but Muhammad, the chosen one, peace be on him. Then endeavour to cultivate true love for the dignified and majestic Prophet and do not give any kind of preference over him to anyone else so that in heaven you may be counted as those who have attained salvation. Remember that salvation will not be manifested only after death, but true salvation is that which exhibits its light in this very world. Who attain salvation? He who believes that God is true, that Muhammad, on whom be peace, is the intercessor between God and all His creatures, and that there is no Messenger equal to him in rank under heaven, nor is there any book equal in rank to the Holy Quran. THE PROMISED MESS I A H (KISHTI NUH PP. 15-20) THE REVIEWOF RELIGIONS 59 BOOK REVIEW GURMUKHI TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY QURAN BY GIANI IBADULLAH PUBLISHED BY NAZIR DAWATO TABLEEGH QADIAN – INDIA One morning a couple of bearded Maulvis in turbans presented me with a Punjabi rendering of the Holy Quran by Giani Ibadullah, a Sikh convert to Islam. They were Ahmadiyya missionaries who had devoted their lives to tableegh — spreading the gospel. It occurred to me that I had never read the Quran from cover to cover — only some selected portions. For that matter I had not read the Talmud the Bible or even the Granth Sahib (many passages of which I have translated into English) from the beginning to the end. The only scriptures I had gone through completely were some of the smaller Upanishads and the Bhagvat Gita which takes less than an hour to read. Why I have never filled these enormous gaps in my reading is because I find religious classics somewhat repetitive and boring. When I meet people who spend many hours of their day reading their scriptures and see how profoundly they are moved hearing them recited I feel I miss something very precious. Perhaps it is the music of the words in which they are couched: this is certainly true of the Arabic of the Quran the Sanakrit of the Geeta and much of the Santbhasha used by Guru Arjun. The less you understand their meaning, the stronger the spell cast by the words. I know I am not likely to read the Gurmukhi translation of the Quran – incidentally the third in the language. However, the gift impelled me to pick up English translations I have on my shelves. I was happy to note that as a matter of fact forty years ago I had almost read the entire book with a Maulvi Sahib reading the text in Arabic and I following it in Pick- thalls translation. I had underlined many passages either for their moral message or their literary excellence. Somehow the Throne Verse (Ayat- ul-Kursi) which is perhaps most commonly reproduced in Muslim maus- oleums and worn in amulets and necklaces (I have a beautiful re-production in silver on a bidri plate) was not one of those which had then attracted my attention. I would like to know why this ayat (verse) is regarded as a warder off of evils. “O ye who believe! Spend of that wherewith We have provided you before the day come when there will be no trafficking nor friendship, nor intercession. The disbelievers, they are the wrongdoers. 60 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS “Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him, Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that interceds with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His Throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous. There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break, Allah is Hearer, Knower.” For non-Muslims who wish to read the Quran but are daunted by its size, I recommended starting with the shorter Suras which come at the end but are amongst earlier revelations. They are powerful poetry. It also occurs to me that no group has done more for spreading Islam in Europe and Africa in the last fifty years than the Ahmadiyyas. It is ironic that it is the Ahmadiyyas that the Pakistan Supreme Court has declared to be non-Muslims. Has anyone the right to pronounce on another’s faith? Ahmadis have not been declare d non- Muslims by the Supreme Court of Pakis- KHUSHWANT SINGH tan but by the National Assembly of (Courtesy Hidusten Times) Pakistan. (Editor) 5.9.1983. ******************** TADHKIRA (English translation of the dreams, visions and verbal revelations vouchsafed to the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) By Muhammad Zafrulla Khan Publishers: The London Mosque £3.00 The Holy Quran has laid down a criteria for the truthfulness of a claimant of the receipt of divine revelation in the following words: And if he had forged and attributed any sayings to Us, We would, surely, have seized him by the right hand, and then, surely, We would