The Qur'an 4:157-58 denies that Jesus died on the cross. Some Muslim scholars maintain that the crucifixion did not occur at all. Others, in perhaps the most common explanation, argue that someone else, for example the apostle Judas or a Jew named Titanus, was substituted in Jesus' place. Some, on the other hand, say that Jesus was miraculously saved from death and taken to heaven by the intervention of Allah. Some, finally, argue that Jesus did not die on the cross, but only swooned or appeared to die, and thereafter recovered. Regardless of the various theories raised to justify the alleged revelation, the Muslim scholarship is virtually unanimous in maintaining the veracity of the clearly-historically-erroneous Qur'an and denying, by the word of one man without any personal knowledge of the fact, the historical crucifixion and death of Jesus.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - On his way to Rome to be martyred for his Christian faith perhaps as early as the end of the 1st century, St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop of Antioch and disciple of St. John the Apostle, wrote an epistle to the Trallians. "Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ," he wrote, "who was truly . . . [and was] crucified and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. . . . But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, that He only seemed to suffer . . . then why am I in bonds? Why do I long to be exposed to the wild beasts? Do I therefore die in vain?"
St. Ignatius died for his faith in the Gospel, and certainly not in vain since his faith was well-based. Part of this faith was based upon a historical fact witnessed by numerous still-then alive: that Jesus lived, was crucified, died, and rose again from the dead. The theological significance of Jesus' crucifixion and atoning death (the Redemption) was tied to that unique historical event: Jesus--he who was fully God and fully man--suffered, died on the cross, was buried, and rose again from the grave.
The theological conclusion that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures," (1 Cor 15:3) meant that Jesus had physically and really died on the cross. Necessarily, Jesus would have had to die on the cross for St. Paul to have proclaimed to the Thessalonians the hope of all Christians: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep." (1 Thess. 4:14) That's why St. Paul insistently preached "Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2)
The crucifixion and death of Jesus is at the center of the Christian faith. We build our faith on a historical fact, even to the point of repeating the name of a second-rate Roman prefect who may have been forgotten to history had his life not intertwined with that of Jesus' death by crucifixion. "We believe," we say in the Nicene Creed, that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." The Church insisted upon the reality of Christ's suffering and death against all manner of heretics who questioned that reality, such as Gnostics and Docetists.
A Christianity without the cross is inconceivable. "The law of the Christians is the holy cross of Christ, the living son of God," says the Pseudo-Cyprian. The amor crucis, the love of God towards man that embraced the cross to redeem us, is a centerpiece of how we understand God's solicitous and unconditional love for errant, sinning man. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8).
It is a love that we are called to imitate. Christians, in fact, are called to deny themselves, and pick up their cross, and follow the Lord in imitation of this amor crucis. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself," Jesus said, and "take up his cross, and follow me." (Matt. 16:24; see also Matt. 10:38, Luke 14:27, 1 Pet. 2:21) The Christian life is the via crucis, the way of the cross. The amor crucis leads seamlessly into the via crucis. The cross is then the symbol and summary of the Great Commandment: the love of God and the love of neighbor as one's self. (Matt. 22:37-38; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27-28)
The Gospels all testify to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. (Matt. 27:31-56; Mark 15:20-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-30) It is apparent that it was a central part of the apostolic preaching. "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ," St. Peter preaches at the feast of Pentecost. (Acts 2:36; see also 2:23).
The cross of Jesus is at the heart of the theology of St. Paul and is the centerpiece of his proclamation of the Gospel. "But we preach Christ crucified," St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles." (1 Cor. 1:13) The cross was at the forefront of his spirituality. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) The cross, was for St. Paul, the fulcrum around which Christianity and the salvation it offered the world revolved: "We know that our old self was crucified with him," he tells the Romans, "so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin." (Rom. 6:6).
The crucifixion of Christ is, from a historical standpoint, undeniable. It is irrational to deny it given the historical evidence. Not only is it the constant witness of the Church, it is attested to in Jewish and secular sources as well. So, for example, we find reference to Jesus' crucifixion and death in the Roman historian Tacitus (Annals, XV.44). Likewise, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus refers to Jesus' death on the cross in his Antiquities (XVIII, 33). We might also point to the Greek satirist of Lucian of Samosata who mentions Jesus and his crucifixion in his play The Death of Peregrine.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (sections 613-18) gives a concise summary of the theological significance for all mankind of the death of Jesus by crucifixion, weaving together the teaching of the Scriptures, Church Councils, the Saints, the Church's liturgy, and the Church's hymns. The Church insists that Christ's death by crucifixion was a unique and definitive redemptive sacrifice, involved Christ's substitutionary death on mankind's behalf, and merits for us the forgiveness of our sins, our salvation, and a renewed relationship with God.
"Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through the 'Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19), and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the 'blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Matt. 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; 1 Cor 11:25)
"This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices. (Cf. Heb 10:10) First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience." (Cf. John 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; 1 John 4:10.)
"'For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.' (Rom 5:19) By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who 'makes himself an offering for sin,' when 'he bore the sin of many,' and who 'shall make many to be accounted righteous,' for 'he shall bear their iniquities.' (Isaiah 53:10-12) Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father. (DS 1529, Council of Trent).
"It is love 'to the end' (John 13:1) that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life. (Cf. Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25) Now 'the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.' (2 Cor 5:14) No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all."
"The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ's sacrifice as 'the source of eternal salvation,' (Heb. 5:9) and teaches that 'his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us.' (DS 5129) And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: 'Hail, O Cross, our only hope.'" (Hymn Vexilla regis)
"The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the 'one mediator between God and men.' (1 Tim 2:5) But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, 'the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery' is offered to all men. (GS 22 § 5; cf. § 2) He calls his disciples to 'take up [their] cross and follow [him]' (Matt 16:24) for 'Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.' (1 Pet. 2:21) In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. (Cf. Mark 10:39; John 21:18-19; Col. 2:14) This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering." (Cf. Luke 2:35)
"Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven." (St Rose of Lima)
Obviously, the Qur'an denies the entire theological value of Christ's incarnation and his redemptive death on the Cross. But the Qur'an goes beyond this. Though not without some ambiguity as to precisely how it happened, the Qur'an, in one verse, clearly denies the historical crucifixion and death of Jesus:
"That they [meaning the Jews] said (in boast), 'We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah';--but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise." (Qur'an 4:157-58)
Because of certain ambiguities in the Arabic text, the Islamic interpretation of these verses in the Qur'an is not monolithic. Interestingly, there is no ahadith relating to Jesus and his crucifixion, so the only textual source of the Muslim rejection of the crucifixion is in the Qur'an.
In construing Qur'an 4:157-58, some Muslim scholars maintain that the crucifixion did not occur at all. Others, in perhaps the most common explanation, argue that someone else, for example the apostle Judas or a Jew named Titanus, was substituted in Jesus' place. Some, on the other hand, say that Jesus was miraculously saved from death and taken to heaven by the intervention of Allah. Finally, some argue that Jesus did not die on the cross, but only swooned or appeared to die, and thereafter recovered. Regardless of the various theories raised to justify the alleged revelation, the Muslim scholarship is virtually unanimous in maintaining the veracity of the clearly-historically-erroneous Qur'an and, against all reason, denying the historical crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Whatever the explanation, for the traditional Muslim, a crucifix is an abhorrent symbol. Not only is it considered a graven image and a symbol of shirk, but, even more, it is considered to be a direct affront to the alleged veracity of the Qur'an, specifically Qur'an 4:157-58.
There are, moreover, traditions that suggest that Muhammad had a superstitious fear against the cross, a cruciphobia more typical of what is popularly attributed to a vampire or the demonically possessed. Muhammad possessed the opposite of the the amor crucis, or love of the cross, enjoined by Christian mystics, saints, and theologians. According to 'Aisha, Muhammad's child bride, if she ever left anything in Muhammad's house carrying an image or a cross, "he obliterated it." E.g., Sahih al-Bukhari 7.72.836, There are other ahadith where Muhammad tells his followers to rid themselves of any crosses, as such are nothing less than idols. Finally, there is some ahadith considered genuine that states that Muhammad believed that Jesus in his Second Coming will actually "break the cross," and de-Christianize Christianity." Sahih al-Bukhari 3.34.425.
Some of the more zealous of Muhammad's disciples have therefore taken it upon themselves to "break the cross" when they have the opportunity. Among the more recent of these incidents we might point to the Muslims resident in Switzerland who advocate a change in the Swiss cross-bearing flag, the Muslim youth in Benghazi who ritually destroyed the tombstones marking the graves of British soldiers because they bore a cross, Muslim countries which forbid the displaying of the cross on churches, or the wearing of crosses and crucifixes when visiting a mosque.
The cruciphobia of Muhammad has been transplanted to his followers, and this is a fact which must rend the heart of any Christian. For the Christian knows that without knowledge of the cross, we cannot have adequate knowledge of the love of God or of his healing salvation. He also knows that that reliance on law without the cross as a means of self-justification is the vanity of vanities.
In closing, we might turn to St. Paul's letter to the Colossians who warns them against those who might deceive them with "specious arguments" and take them from the via crucis. "For even if I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing as I observe your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Col. 2:4-7)
In his letter to the Colossians St. Paul was speaking to the Judaizers of his day, but we may be assured that he would have used even stronger words against the Muhammadan and his vain Shari'a. For St. Paul would have recognized what any Christian should. He would have recognized at once that the Shari'a is a law which nullifies Christ and him crucified.
St. Paul continues with his theology of the cross: "See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ. For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And even when you were dead (in) transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross; despoiling the principalities and the powers, he made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph by it." (Col. 2:8-15)
Jesus is how we relate to God. Law is no longer the primary way in which we relate to God. Law has been nailed to the cross, fulfilled in the person of Jesus. The Cross, and all it accomplished, and all it stands for, and all it instructs, has become the divine law.
The Shari'a is calculated to undo the cross. It is a law which is based upon the "fleshly reasonings" of Muhammad and the human tradition of the legal scholars, the Fuqaha, who issue vainly their fatwas as if they are authentic indications of God's will. It is a law based upon the circumcision of human hand instead of divine baptism, a law which does not bring authentic guidance nor purchase forgiveness. Instead, it is a law that with its haram and halal passes judgment on food and drink and festival, on all sorts of daily activities, on externalities and trivialities of all sorts.
"Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath," St. Paul concludes, "these are shadows of things to come." (Col. 2:16-17a)
No. The Muslims have fallen into a trap. St. Paul tells the Colossians what he would tell the Muslims and what we, in evangelical love, must tell the Muslims regardless of how they take it:
"The reality belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, delighting in self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, inflated without reason by his fleshly mind, and not holding closely to the head [that is, Jesus Christ], from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and bonds, achieves the growth that comes from God. If you died with Christ to the elemental powers of the world, why do you submit to regulations as if you were still living in the world? "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" These are all things destined to perish with use; they accord with human precepts and teachings. While they have a semblance of wisdom in rigor of devotion and self-abasement (and) severity to the body, they are of no value against gratification of the flesh." (Col. 2:17b-23)
There is only thing men and women must turn to. The truth is the same for the Muslim as it is for the Christian. This one thing is Christ and him crucified.
Let us pray and work unceasingly for the day that each Muslim may turn away from the cruciphobia of his antichrist prophet, and reject the oppressive Shari'a, and instead pray with us as brothers in the faith:
Ave crux, spes unica!
Hail the Cross, the only hope!
And if they don't, then let us be like St. Ignatius, and, armed with the sure knowledge of the cross, be willing to suffer for the faith, even, if need be, by the loss of our lives. Whether we be dead or whether we be alive, the same refrain will be on our lips, for the same true song is sung in heaven as it is on earth:
Ave crux, spes unica!
Hail the Cross, the only hope!
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas and practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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