Featured

Death on the Cross?

46 The Review of Religions – March 2004 Jesus’s Birth Strangely enough, the three great nations of the world – Jews, Christians and Muslims are at variance with regard, both, to the birth as well as the death of Jesus Christ who was born among the Jews. The Jews declare his birth to be illegitimate: they are guilty of uttering a grievous calumny against M a r y, mother of Jesus( a s ). The Christians on the other hand believe that Jesus Christ( a s ) was born without the agency of an earthly father and that he was the son of God Himself. This shows that both the Jews and the Christians have gone to the opposite extremes as regards Jesus’ (as) birth. The Muslims on their part, believe that Jesus(as), no doubt, was born without the agency of an earthly father, but he was not the son of God. A fatherless birth may be a strange incident but it is not unnatural. There have been cases in medical history where innocent virgins have given birth to babies. Adam is believed by the three great religions of the world to be born without the agency of either ‘father’ or ‘mother.’ The Muslims believe that Jesus(as) was a true prophet of God. His birth, without the agency of man, has nothing to do with his sonship or his divinity. He was human, pure and simple. Jesus invariably calls himself the `Son of man’ in the New Testament. Jesus’s Death His death is equally a controversial affair with the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims. The Jews believe that Jesus( a s ) died on the cross because he was a false prophet. In this connection they quote the Bible. ‘And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree’ is ‘the accursed of God’. (Deut. 21:22-23), According to them, Jesus was a false prophet, therefore he died on Death on the Cross This article is based upon a pamphlet entitled: ‘Death on the Cross? Ten arguments from the Bible’ by the Late Maulana Abul Atta Jalandhri, H.A. and published by the London Mosque. For the sake of the convenience of the reader, the name Jesus and other prophets has not been suffixed by (as) (peace be upon him) in all places but we urge Muslims to consider it implicit in the text. 47 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 the cross as the accursed of God. The Christians also believe that J e s u s( a s ) was hanged on the Cross and died an accursed death. Says P a u l : ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree’. (Galatians 3: 13). But the Holy Qur’an declares that Christ did not die on the Cross. God saved him from death by cru- cifixion in the same way as He saved His dear ones from tribulations. Did not Jonah the Prophet come out alive from the belly of the whale? The fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ(as) only fell into a swoon on the Cross, but when he was taken down from it, he recovered and then died a natural death at the good old age of 120. On the strength of their belief that Jesus(as) was a false prophet, the Jews, particularly the Pharisees of his time, brought serious political charges against him alleging that he was disloyal to the Roman E m p e r o r, and that he claimed himself to be the King of the Jews. The governor, Pilate was not convinced of his guilt but being influenced by the tumult of the multitude he delivered Jesus(as) to be crucified. They put him on the Cross where he remained, at the utmost, for three or four hours only and then was taken down in a swoon and placed in a sepulchre in a garden nearby. Now in those days it took several days for criminals to die on the Cross. They suffered the pangs of hunger and thirst and in most cases their legs were broken. They died a lingering death extending over several days. But it was not so in the case of Jesus Christ( a s ). I n c i d e n t a l l y, he was put on the Cross on a Friday afternoon. The following being the Sabbath day -a day of religious observance by the Jews – no criminal could remain on the Cross on that Holy day, so he was taken down from it after about three or four hours. The loss of blood from the wounds caused him to fall into a swoon. He was taken for a dead man. His body was placed in a spacious sepulchre in a garden by Joseph of Arimathaea, his own disciple. Jesus being still alive in the sepulchre, left it on the 48 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 third day in disguise, met his disciples at Galilee and ate with them. His wounds were healed by the application of an ointment especially prepared by his disciples for the purpose. This is the natural story of Jesus’(as) Crucifixion but the Christians gave a strange version of his death which is not only unnatural but also against historical evidence as well as logic. They believe that Jesus(as) actually died on the Cross but on the third day he rose up to the heavens. What a paradox! Modern Christianity rests on the belief that Jesus(as) died on the Cross. But if it is proved that he did not die on the Cross nor did he rise from the dead, then the whole edifice of Christianity tumbles to the ground. Paul, who is the real founder of modern Christianity, himself says: ‘And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith also vain’. (I.Corinthians 15: 14). The late Dr. Zwemer, the well- known American missionary says: ‘If our belief in the death of Christ on the Cross is wrong then the whole of Christianity is a farce’. I-Jonah’s Sign Now we proceed with our arguments from the Bible itself to show that Jesus(as) did not die on the Cross. We read in the New Testament: ‘And when the people were g a t h e red thick together, he (Jesus) began to say, this is an evil generation: they seek a sign: and there shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man to this generation.’ (Luke 11:29, 30). Again: ‘But he answered and said unto them; an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and there shall be no sign given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’. (Matthew 12:39, 40). 49 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 Jesus Christ(as) is said here to give a sign to the people of his own time as Jonas, the prophet, had given to the Ninevites? Now what was the sign given by Jonas to the Ninevites? The Bible says: ‘Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s b e l l y. And said, 1 cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest, my voice’. (Jonah 1: 17 and 2: 1, 2). According to this verse in the Bible, Jonah was swallowed up by a big fish where he remained three days and three nights and then came out alive from the belly of the fish. It was a sign given to the Ninevites. Jonah prayed to God for deliverance while in the belly of the fish. The Lord heard his prayer and Jonah came out alive. Jesus(as) says that no sign shall be given to the evil and adulterous generation of his time except that of Jonas. Now what is the resemblance between the two signs of Jonas and Jesus(as). It is nothing but going alive into the belly of the fish and the heart of the earth and coming out alive. Both Jonah and Jesus(as) cried by reason of their respective afflictions and prayed to their Lord for deliverance. The prayers of both were heard. If Jesus(as) did not enter the heart of the earth (sepulchre) alive, and come out alive, where is the resemblance of the two signs? Jesus promised to show only one sign to the generation of his time, but even if that sign be not proved to be true, is there anything also to prove the truth of his claim to be a prophet? Jesus’(as) reference to the sign of Jonah simply means that he would not die on the Cross. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that the swoon theory is not based on a wrong hypothesis. II – Pilate’s wife sees a dream ‘When he was set down on the Judgement seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have you nothing to do with that just man (Jesus): for I have suffere d many things this day in a dream because of him’. (Matthew 27: 19) The lady’s dream was really true and quite opportune. It purports to mean that Christ be saved from the accursed death on the Cross. God 50 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 saves his dear ones by means of dreams of others as was the case with Joseph who was released from jail having interpreted the two dreams of Pharaoh. God wanted to protect Jesus against his enemies, hence the dream of the Roman governor’s wife which influenced his judgement. III – The Roman Governor’s sympathetic attitude The Jews presented the case of Jesus Christ(as) to Pilate, the Roman Governor of Palestine. He held a judicial inquiry into the case and declared that he was not guilty of the charges brought against him. He said unto them: ‘Ye have brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people: and behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things where of ye accuse him.’ (Luke 23: 14). He went out again unto the Jews and said unto them, 1 find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye, therefore, that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber’. (John 18: 38, 40). And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not C a e s a r’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar’. (John 19: 12). From the references given above, it is evident that the Governor regards Jesus(as) innocent of all the charges brought against him by the Jews, he tries his utmost to release him but when the Jews threatened to report him to the Caesar in Rome he yielded to them and handed Jesus(as) over to them. But secretly he took measures to see that Jesus should be saved. He had his wife’s dream before him and he knew full well that the chief priests had delivered him in envy. IV-Pilate’s scheme to save Christ Pilate, the Governor, was thoroughly convinced of the innocence of Jesus Christ. He 51 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 therefore, had a pre-planned scheme to save Jesus’(as) life. As a responsible official of the Roman Empire he could not openly come to the forefront, but he was the master- mind before the whole scheme and the chief actor in the drama. Other characters of the show were Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable councillor and disciple of Jesus C h r i s t( a s ). He had already had a sepulchre hewn out in a rock garden nearby. We read in St. John: ‘And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pounds weight’. (John 19: 39). It was very clever of Pilate to choose Friday afternoon as the time for Jesus’(as) crucifixion so that he could not remain on the Cross after sunset, the following day being Sabbath, so holy to the Jews. All necessary measures were adopted to bring Jesus(as) to consciousness. Otherwise what did Nicodemus mean by bringing the mixture of myrrh and aloes. Jesus ( a s ) w a s shown to have died in off i c i a l records to pacify the Jews and the imperial government at Rome. Joseph of Arimathaea boldly asked the Governor to hand over the `body’ of Jesus which request he readily granted. If the plan was not pre-conceived, how could the Governor hand over the `body’ of Jesus to a stranger from outside. There is reason to believe that Jesus Christ(as) himself must have been informed of the plan so that his prophecy might come true that as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. V-Duration of Crucifixion The duration of crucifixion or the period of time for which Jesus remained on the Cross was not long enough to warrant his death on the Cross. Criminals generally took several days to die a lingering death an the cross on account of the loss of blood from the wounds on hands and feet, the physical pain and the pangs of hunger and thirst. The minimum time of death on the cross ranged between 24 and 28 hours but in some cases it took several days to die on the cross. In such cases it became necessary to break the legs of the criminals so that death may be hastened and consummated. 52 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 Let us now probe into the matter of J e s u s ’( a s ) crucifixion. The New Testament tells us that Jesus ( a s ) remained on the cross for a few hours only. The actual duration of time Jesus remained on the Cross was not more than three or four hours. Jesus Christ(as) who was in the prime of his youth (33 years) and enjoyed excellent health, could not be expected to have died within so short a time in particular when his legs were not broken as was done in the case of the two robbers crucified with him the same day. It may not be out of place here to note that, according to the Roman calendar the day began with the setting of the sun and ended with its setting the next day. The same custom is in vogue even to this day in Arab countries. According to John (19: 14) it was about the sixth hour of the day (Friday) that Pilate spoke last to the Jews vis-a-vis Jesus crucifixion and handed him over to them. ‘And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth h o u r. And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, LAMA SABACHTHANI, My God, My God why hast thou forsaken m e? ” ’ (Mark 15:33, 34). This shows that Jesus(as) retained his consciousness up to the ninth hour of the day and then he fell into a swoon, that the New Te s t a m e n t writers call ‘giving up the ghost’. None of the writers were present on the spot to stand as eye-witness. The ‘swoon’ was taken to be ‘death’ and `death on the Cross’ means an accursed death. Do we not read in the Bible, ‘for he that is hanged is accursed of God’? (Deut. 21:23). VI-Coming out of blood and water ‘Then came the soldiers and broke the legs of the first and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they break not his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water’. (John 19:32-34) The soldiers did not break the legs of Jesus(as) for they took him for a 53 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 dead man while actually he was in a state of swoon, or just to silence the angry Jews he was declared to be a ‘dead’ man. But one of the soldiers incidentally ‘pierced his side and forthwith there came out blood and water’, which is a surer sign of life for blood and water do not gush out of a dead man’s body. There is much food for thought for those who care to ponder over it. VII-No eye-witness of crucifixion Three writers of the Gospels state that there was darkness over all the land from the sixth to the ninth hour and that there was an earthquake and the rocks were rent and the veil of the temple was rent in twain. It is a matter of common experience at the time of a severe dust-storm accompanied by an earthquake, people generally hasten to go home and they do not enjoy the luxury of a bloody sight-seeing. Now imagine for a moment, who could stand an eye-witness to tell the story that Jesus actually died on the cross. The Jews, if at all, there were any on the spot, must have run away at the sight of the rising storm and the shaking of the earth must have frightened them to turn on their heels and hasten to their homes. As to the disciples, they had already fled from the scene of the crucifixion. ‘But he began to curse and to swear saying, I know not this man (Jesus) of whom you speak’. (Mark 14:71) ‘And they forsook him (Jesus) and fled’. (Mark 14: 50) To be brief, there was no one present on the scene who could definitely and certainly say that he saw Jesus(as) ‘giving up the ghost’. This is all mere conjecture and imagination. VIII-Jesus’ mission to the lost sheep of Israel 1. ‘For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’. (Luke 19: 10). 2. ‘And other sheep I have, which are not 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). 3. ‘And he said unto them, I 54 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also; For therefore I am sent. (Luke 4:43). 4. ‘But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. (Matthew 15:24). From the quotations given above, it is clear that Jesus’(as) mission was to preach to all the twelve tribes of Israel that were scattered in the eastern countries extending from Palestine to India at the time of Jesus’(as) appearance. Of the twelve tribes of Israel there were at that time, only two tribes in Palestine while the other ten were found scattered in the lands stretching from Palestine to the confines of India. Jesus(as) cannot be said to have been successful in his mission if he did not address and preach to the ten lost sheep of Israel. Jesus’(as) supposed death on the Cross at the early age of 33 gives a shattering blow to the mission for which he was sent. The truth of the matter is that Jesus Christ(as) after his escape from the Cross, did migrate to the East in search of the lost sheep for which there is ample historical evidence and is recently supported by the modern ‘finds’ of archaeology. Jesus(as) found his lost sheep in Persia, Afghanistan and K a s h m i r, preached to them and comparatively he was much more successful here than in Palestine. He died a natural death and was, we believe, buried in Srinagar, Kashmir. IX-Jesus’ victory over his enemies Addressing his disciples Jesus( a s ) says: ‘Before, the hour cometh yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’. (John 16:32, 33) Now what does Jesus’(as) victory consist of? Was it in his death on the Cross or in his escape from the Cross? If he died on the cross then the Jews were successful because the very aim of theirs was to prove 55 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 that he was false in calling himself the Messiah. They had in their support, the Biblical statement that ‘he that is hanged is an accursed of God’. (Duet. 21: 23). But if we believe that he was taken down from the cross alive, (in a state of swoon of course) and he entered the heart of the earth alive and came out of it alive, then he can rightly be said to have overcome his enemies and frustrated all their evil designs. Jesus(as) says: ‘For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation’. (Luke 11:30) In other words Jesus(as) said to the Jews that God Almighty would save him from the clutches of death in the same way as He had saved Jonah from the belly of the whale. The similarity between the two incidents can be real and genuine only when Jesus(as) enters the heart of the earth (grave) alive and comes out alive. X-His Prayer was heard From the study of the Bible we learn that God listens to the prayers of his apostles and saves them from tribulations and trials. Says the New Testament: ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a religious man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again and the, heavens gave rain, and the earth bro u g h t forth her fruit’. (James 5: 16-18). Again we read: And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said father I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me. And I knew that Thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it that they may believe that Thou hast sent me’. (John 11: 41, 42). And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will but what Thou wilt’. (Mark 14:36) From the quotations given above it 56 Death on the Cross The Review of Religions – March 2004 is clear that Jesus( a s ) was terribly afraid of being put to the Cross, so he fervently prayed that the bitter cup be taken away from him. J e s u s( a s ) passionately and fervently prayed to God that he might be saved the accursed death on the Cross, how could he then, say that he had overcome the world; in case he died on the Cross, the mission of his whole life would come to naught and wrongdoers could challenge his claim to prophethood. The thought of death on the Cross was simply grating upon his soul. Being a righteous prophet he was not afraid of mere death; he was certainly afraid of dying on the Cross as such a death could be interpreted to mean an accursed death which was the very negation of his prophetic mission. ‘In the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death and was heard in that he feared’. (Hebrews 5:7). Hence we must presume that his earnest prayer was, no doubt heard and he miraculously escaped death by crucifixion and lived long enough to preach his mission to the lost sheep of the Israelites in the East. These arguments prove that the idea of the crucifixion of Christ cannot be justified even from the Biblical point of view. Therefore, it is evident that the present Christian faith based on that erroneous idea, can not hold ground. ERRATA In The Review of Religions of April 2003 (p.15) and August 2003 (p.4). Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih III was described as the ‘cousin’ brother of Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalidatul Masih IV instead of ‘maternal step’ brother. We trust that the above has abundantly cleared any confusion in the minds of some readers.