Dr. Bart Ehrman is an agnostic atheist who states that Jesus' death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is one of the most certain facts of history. According to Islam, one of the most certain facts of history is apparently uncertain.
One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate. (Ehrman, 2011)
However, according to Islam, one of the most certain facts of history is apparently uncertain. In accordance with surah 4, ayah 157 of the Qur'an, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified on the Cross. Supposedly, Allah deceived everyone by having someone resembling Jesus crucified instead.
And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. (Qur'an 4:157, Sahih International)
The historical evidence is clear that eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life testify to His death and resurrection from the dead. God by nature is all-knowing, so what was the intention of Allah in having a faux-Jesus crucified while having Jesus appear to His followers? Surely, Allah would have known that this would cause people to believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead. If Jesus’ followers got the wrong impression, why did Allah wait for the year 610 AD to fix it with the Qur'an? It does not add up.
As a Christian, it’s interesting to see stories in the Qur'an that have similarities with stories in the Torah or the Gospels. However, in many cases the stories are not found in the Torah or the Gospels although the characters are from the Torah or the Gospels. Here’s a thought I was presented with in a lecture series I attended (the professor cited this link):
Possibly the greatest puzzlement for Christians who pick up the Qur'an and read it are the numerous seemingly Biblical stories which bear little similarity to the Biblical accounts.
The Jewish Talmudic writings were compiled in the second century A.D., from oral laws (Mishnah) and traditions of those laws (Gemara). These laws and traditions were created to adapt the law of Moses (the Torah) to the changing times. Most Jews do not consider the Talmudic writings authoritative, but they read them nonetheless with interest for the light they cast on the times in which they were written.
Stories which have their root in second century (A.D.) Jewish apocryphal literature: the murder of Abel by Cain in sura 5:31-32, borrowed from the Targum of Jonathan-ben-Uzziah and the Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; or the story of Abraham, the idols and the fiery furnace in sura 21:51-71, taken from the Midrash Rabbah; or the amusing story found in sura 27:17-44, of Solomon, his talking Hoopoo bird, and the Queen of Sheba who lifts her skirt when mistaking a mirrored floor for water, taken from the 2nd Targum of Esther.
There are other instances where we find both apocryphal Jewish and Christian literatures within the Qur'anic text. The account of Mt. Sinai being lifted up and held over the heads of the Jews as a threat for rejecting the law (sura 7:171) comes from the second century Jewish apocryphal book, The Abodah Sarah. The odd accounts of the early childhood of Jesus in the Qur'an can be traced to a number of Christian apocryphal writings: the Palm tree which provides for the anguish of Mary after Jesus’s birth (sura 19:22-26) comes from The Lost Books of the Bible, while the account of the infant Jesus creating birds from clay (sura 3:49) comes from Thomas’ Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ. The story of the baby Jesus talking (sura 19:29-33) can be traced to Arabic apocryphal fable from Egypt named The first Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ.
It is important to remember that the Talmudic accounts were not considered by the orthodox Jews of that period as authentic for one very good reason: they were not in existence at the council of Jamnia in 80 A.D. when the Old Testament was canonized. Neither were the Christian apocryphal material considered canonical, as they were not attested as authoritative both prior to and after the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Thus these accounts have always been considered as heretical by both the Jewish and Christian orthodox believers, and the literate ever since. It is for this reason that we find it deeply suspicious that the apocryphal accounts should have made their way into a book claiming to be the final revelation from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
So here we have the Qur'an presenting stories taken from apocryphal literature which were never recognized as authoritative by Jews or Christians. But assuming the integrity of the Qur'an, why should we trust a document written 600 years after the fact rather than trusting multiple documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses?
Many Muslims like to sheepishly claim that the Gospels are corrupt. But this must be refuted for two reasons:
- Textual criticism of the New Testament invalidates the statement.
- One must contradict the Qur'an to make the statement.
First, textual criticism of the New Testament invalidates the idea that the Gospels are corrupt. If the New Testament’s intended message got corrupted early on, we should expect to find denials of corrupted texts, especially since the alleged corruptions were written during the lifetime of eyewitnesses and people who personally knew eyewitnesses. Yet, instead of finding evidence that the New Testament was corrupted, we find eyewitness accounts that corroborate each other. We now have over 5800 Greek manuscripts for the New Testament, which is important because the New Testament was originally written in Greek. The large quantity of manuscripts has allowed scholars to compare and contrast various manuscripts in order to accurately render the New Testament. Only about 400 words out of 138,020 words (0.3%) are in doubt amongst the Greek manuscripts, and the differences are not significant. Objectively, we can recreate the New Testament with 99.7% certainty. Even the leading atheist scholars such as Dr. Bart Ehrman attest to this. For more on this, see my article on ’Why the Bible?’
Second, one must contradict the Qur'an to make the statement. Muslims believe in the Tawrat (Torah), Zabur (Psalms), and the Injil (Gospels). In Qur'an 3:3 we are told that Allah revealed the Torah and the Gospel, emphasizing that the Qur'an confirms what is in them. Furthermore in Qur'an 5:47, we find that even during the time of Muhammad the People of the Gospel or Christians are told to judge by what Allah has revealed in the Gospel. Therefore, it can not be said that the manuscripts for the Torah and the Gospel, dating much earlier than Muhammad, are corrupt. In Qur'an 10:94-95 and 16:43, Muhammad is told to ask those who have been reading the Scripture before him if he is in doubt. The Qur'an clearly points to Jews and Christians who have been revealed the Torah and the Gospel. If the Torah and the Gospel were corrupt, the directive would not make sense.
He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. (Qur'an 3:3, Sahih International)
And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient. (Qur'an 5:47, Sahih International)
So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters. And never be of those who deny the signs of Allah and [thus] be among the losers. (Qur'an 10:94-95, Sahih International)
And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So ask the people of the message if you do not know. (Qur'an 16:43, Sahih International)
And recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book of your Lord. There is no changer of His words, and never will you find in other than Him a refuge. (Qur'an 18:27, Sahih International)
In fact, the Qur'an is the one with reliability issues. Muslims love to explain that the Qur'an has never been changed. However, according to one of the most reliable Hadith, Caliph Uthman ensured that all of the original manuscripts for the Qur'an were burnt 30 years after Muhammad died. Caliph Uthman then got Zaid to create a revised Qur'an. Muslims cannot deny this well-documented historical event. The entire reason for the command was because a significant amount of variation and contradictions were present amongst the versions. Even today, there are seven or ten recognized recitations of the Qur'an even though most Muslims use the Hafs recitation. The variations between the various recitations are significant enough to alter meaning. There are actually 26 different Arabic Qur'ans. Ultimately, we cannot be certain that current recitations correspond to the varying manuscripts prior to Caliph Uthman’s command, neither can we determine which current recitation is most reliable.
Narrated by Anas bin Malik
Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to ‘Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before.” So ‘Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Hafsa sent it to ‘Uthman. ’Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and ‘AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. ‘Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, “In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue.” They did so, and when they had written many copies, ‘Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. ‘Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Zaid bin Thabit added, “A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah’s Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): ‘Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.’ (33.23) (Sahih al-Bukhari 4987)
There is documentation of more corruption in Hadith. As an example, Aisha (Muhammad's youngest wife) says that the teaching to breastfeed a man 10 times (abrogated to 5 times) to make marriage with him unlawful was in the Qur'an. Yet, today we find no such teaching in the Qur'an.
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with, her) reported that it had been revealed in the Holy Qur'an that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah's Apostle (ﷺ) died and it was before that time (found) in the Holy Qur'an (and recited by the Muslims). (Sahih Muslim 1452 a)
Aisha says this discrepancy is because a sheep came and ate it. #sheepgate
It was narrated that 'Aishah said:
“The Verse of stoning and of breastfeeding an adult ten times was revealed, and the paper was with me under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah died, we were preoccupied with his death, and a tame sheep came in and ate it.” (Sunan Ibn Majah: Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1944)
In addition, according to Muslim sources, two-thirds of Surah 33 have been lost. Furthermore, Sahih Muslim 1050 even records that entire surahs were forgotten, one of which was as long as Surah 9 which has 129 ayahs. (Link) (Link). The son of the second Caliph, Ibn Umar, actually says that no one should say they have the whole of the Qur'an because much of the Qur'an has disappeared (Link).
Abu Harb b. Abu al-Aswad reported on the authority of his father that Abu Musa al-Ash'ari sent for the reciters of Basra. They came to him and they were three hundred in number. They recited the Qur'an and he said:
You are the best among the inhabitants of Basra, for you are the reciters among them. So continue to recite it. (But bear in mind) that your reciting for a long time may not harden your hearts as were hardened the hearts of those before you. We used to recite a surah which resembled in length and severity to (Surah) Bara'at. I have, however, forgotten it with the exception of this which I remember out of it:" If there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust." And we used so recite a surah which resembled one of the surahs of Musabbihat, and I have forgotten it, but remember (this much) out of it:" Oh people who believe, why do you say that which you do not practise" (lxi 2.) and" that is recorded in your necks as a witness (against you) and you would be asked about it on the Day of Resurrection" (xvii. 13). (Sahih Muslim 1050)
On the other hand, the disciples of Jesus who saw the resurrected Jesus wrote their accounts as they were inspired by God. Contrary to the Islamic view of a deceptive and unable God, the message of Jesus through the Bible was victorious from the start. If the true message of Jesus was somehow corrupted, the disciples of Jesus who were alive would have written documents rejecting the false accounts to preserve the testimony of the life of Jesus.
Muslims believe in the Tawrat (Torah), Zabur (Psalms), and the Injil (Gospels). In the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus claimed to be God. Click on the link to see my full article on Jesus’ claim to be God, but below you will find the two recorded instances where the Jews picked up stones so that they could stone Jesus.
In John 8:51-59, Jesus claims anyone who keeps His word will not taste death. When confronted about this, He even claims to have met Abraham and claims to be pre-existent to Abraham. How could Jesus make these claims? Jesus claiming to be the great ‘I AM’ is significant because the God appeared as the great 'I AM’ to Moses or Musa in the burning bush.
Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:51-59, NASB)
In John 10:27-33, the very reason Jesus was persecuted by the Jews was that they rejected His claim to be of one essence with God the Father and thus be God.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” (John 10:27-33, NASB)
Allah alone is the first and the last in the Qur'an. God alone is the first and the last in the Old Testament. Jesus is the first and the last in the New Testament.
He is the First and the Last, the Ascendant and the Intimate, and He is, of all things, Knowing. (Qur'an 57:3, Sahih International)
“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me. (Isaiah 44:6, NASB)
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18, NASB) (see also Rev. 2:8, 22:13)
Allah alone forgives sins in the Qur'an. God alone forgives sins in the eyes of the Jews. Jesus forgives sins in the New Testament.
And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins - and who can forgive sins except Allah ? - and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know. (Qur'an 3:135, Sahih International)
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, (Mark 2:5-10, NASB)
Allah alone is the truth and Allah alone gives life to the dead in the Qur'an. God alone is the truth and God alone gives life to the dead in the Old Testament. Jesus claimed to be the truth and gives life to the dead in the New Testament.
That is because Allah is the Truth and because He gives life to the dead and because He is over all things competent (Qur'an 22:6, Sahih International)
Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth. (Psalm 31:5, NASB)
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9, NASB)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6, NASB)
In the Torah, we find the story of Abraham sacrificing his son on an altar. On the mount, as Abraham brings his knife down to kill his son as God commanded, God tells him not to kill his son. God then says that He will provide the sacrifice Himself and provided a ram. Abraham foreshadows God having to judge us because of our choice to follow evil. Evil is anything short of the perfection of a good God. God has to show justice upon our evil, but in His love for us He came in the form of a man and took our place just like in that story and died on the Cross of Calvary to pardon our sins. Every other religion is about doing good to bring ourselves closer to God, but Christianity is about recognizing our fallen nature and trusting that only God can save us through His sacrifice. We cannot earn our way to God; but we can accept Jesus’ sacrifice, believe in His resurrection, and let His love transform our lives. Truth by nature is exclusive, and Jesus is the only hope we have.