Muslim Objections to Christianity: Jesus Did Not Die

This is the second post in a series posts about some of the biggest objections Muslims have with Christianity.

Objection #2: Jesus Did Not Die

Once the credibility of the Bible has been presented, perhaps the most controversial of all objections can be discussed; that Jesus did in fact die. Traditional Islam belief is that Jesus did not die, and that God would not have allowed Jesus to be killed.

To begin, one could refer back to the credibility of the Bible. If the Gospels claim that Jesus died, and these Gospels were reliable in Muhammad’s time, then the Muslim is in quite a dilemma. By what means can it be claimed that Jesus did not die? Looking at one example from the Quran itself, Raouf and Carol Ghattas write, “The verse continues (sura 2:87). Accusing the sons of Israel with rejecting many prophets (apostles) God sent and even killing some of them.”[1]

Therefore, it can be objected that God would not have allowed to Jesus to die. Sura 2:87 ends with, “And a party [of messengers] you denied and another party you killed.” Muslims will agree that some prophets sent by God have been killed, as is stated by this verse. Therefore, based on the Quran’s teaching itself, it is certainly conceivable that Jesus could have been killed. This does not mean Jesus was killed, but the argument that God would have absolutely prohibited him to be killed is not strong, especially since Islam considers Jesus to be only a prophet.

Due to the historical evidence being all but against the Islamic view that Jesus was not killed, what do Muslims claim happened instead? “A few Islamic writers, like Ahmad Khan of India, believe that Jesus was crucified, but did not die on the cross. Rather, he merely swooned.”[2] Norman Geisler writes, “Muslims have been drawn to the notion that Judas or Simon of Cyrene died in Jesus’ place on the cross. A competing view that he swooned on the cross and was taken down while still alive, does not help their hypothesis.”[3]

Due to the fact that there is no highly unified agreed upon belief as to what happened to Jesus, it makes this objection to Christianity not look very strong. Historically, as has been stated, the evidence also is not in Islamic favor. Geisler writes in reference to the substitution legends, “They are contrary to the earliest extra biblical Jewish, Roman, and Samaritan testimony. In spite of the fact that all of these writers were opponents of Christianity, they agree that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate. There is not a shred of first-century testimony to the contrary by friend or foe of Christianity.”[4]

Biblical testimony also emphatically teaches the crucifixion of Jesus. Other Muslim leaders and scholars have suggested that Jesus was taken up back into heaven without dying, that Jesus was raised back alive in soul and body after dying a natural death, or that Jesus was nailed to a cross but was taken down before he died. No matter the alternative solution proposed, they all fall terribly short of any historical fact and cannot be seriously regarded as a possibility.

Another reason as to why Muslims deny the death of Christ is from a theological misunderstanding. Abdalati writes, “Is it just on God’s part, or anybody’s part for that matter, to make someone repent for the sins or wrongs of others, the sins to which the repenter is no party?”[5] However Christians do not believe that Christ repented or confessed our sins. Geisler comments, “Judicially, he was ‘made to be sin for us’ (2 Cor. 5:21)—the substitution that Christians gladly admit. He paid the penalty of death in our place, so that we could stand before God without guilt (Mark 10:45; Rom. 4:25; 1 Peter 2:22; 3:18).”[6]

A second misconception in Islam is the belief that a merciful God can forgive sin without justly condemning it. The first problem with this thought is that Islam implies what Jesus did on the cross was not voluntary but was inflicted upon him. There are a plethora of biblical examples where Jesus explains that what he is going to do is his will (John 10:17-18; John 19:30; etc.). “The second error is that a sovereign God can be holy, and yet change the rules arbitrarily about right and wrong.”[7] Since both Muslims and Christians traditionally believe in hell, Geisler writes, “if holy justice demands that those who do not accept him be eternally punished, then God cannot arbitrarily forgive anyone for anything without a just basis for forgiveness. Muslim theology has none.”[8]

Unless someone or something is able to pay the penalty for sin, due to God’s holiness he must express wrath and judgment. Therefore Geisler adds, “Lacking the crucifixion, the Muslim system has no way to explain how Allah can be merciful when he is also just.” [9] Therefore, on both historical and theological grounds, the death of Jesus is not only possible, it is true.


 

[1] Raouf Ghattas and Carol B. Ghattas, A Christian Guide to the Qur’an: Building Bridges in Muslim Evangelism (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2009), 26.

[2] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 148.

[3] Norman Geisler, “Christ’s Death — Substitution Legend,” http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php?title=Christ%92s_Death%97Substitution_Legend.

[4] Ibid.

[5] H. Abdalati, Islam in Focus, American Trust Publications, (1975) 160.

[6] Geisler, 149.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

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