Both history and the Holy Scriptures speak about the story of the Savior’s death, beginning from the prophecies that foretold the event unto the last words of His death; everything are well- documented. Historical evidences were recovered and added credibility to the biblical records of the crucifixion.
In fact, a certain record relating to the administrative term of the Pontius Pilate can be found in the writings of a Roman historian named Tacitus, where he said;
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite punishments on a class hated for their disgraceful acts, called Chrestians by the populace. Christ, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty (i.e., Crucifixion) during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” (Cornelius Tacitus, Annales Charles Dennis Fisher, Ed. p. 44)
For every religious groups that profess their belief to the Bible, the death of Christ was the most precious gem of faith and the central doctrine of Christianity. This was the reason of Christian worship and the only key of their salvation. Without this doctrine, Christianity is nothing but a waste of time.
But despite of the evidences of Christ’s death, there still some religious groups that reject this biblical record. They formulated some stories and beliefs that does not only refute the prime doctrine of the Church but even demote Christ from being the Son of God. Among these groups, the Muslims are the largest group and the foremost enemy of the Cross of Christ. According to the Islamic belief, Allah deceived the Jewish persecutors of Christ who boast that they held him and crucified upon the cross. It was said that when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, a substitute with a close resemblance to him was arrested in his stead. The man was crucified by the populace without knowing that they crucified an impostor. Ibn Kathir explained;
Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “Just before Allah raised `Isa to the heavens, `Isa went to his companions, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping water and he said, `There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after he had believed in me.’ He then asked, `Who volunteers that his image appear as mine, and be killed in my place. He will be with me (in Paradise)’ One of the youngest ones among them volunteered and `Isa asked him to sit down. `Isa again asked for a volunteer, and the young man kept volunteering and `Isa asking him to sit down. Then the young man volunteered again and `Isa said, `You will be that man,’ and the resemblance of `Isa was cast over that man while `Isa ascended to heaven from a hole in the house. When the Jews came looking for `Isa, they found that young man and crucified him. (al-Nisa 4:157 Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
That they 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, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 157-158
Since then, Jesus had never seen again by the Jews.
According to the Quran, Allah is the best deceiver or schemer among the deceivers of the world. Anyone can deceive and be saved from deception, but no one can escape when Allah deceives them. This attribute of the Islamic god was declared in the Quran, saying;
And they cheated/deceived and God cheated/deceived, and God (is) the best (of) the cheaters/deceivers. (al-Imran 3:54 Ahmed Ali)
In the case of Jesus crucifixion, (if we will follow the Islamic account), it was very evident that Allah used his clever deception to save Jesus from the cross, and in his stead, the Islamic deity put a substitute to suffer the pain of death. This account was regarded as one of the major differences of Quran with the Bible. Though considered by the Islamic Scripture as a word of God, the Hebrew Scriptures were totally ignored when the crucifixion is concerned. But granting that Jesus was never crucified, we can consider that Christianity was a religion accidentally founded upon the lies of Allah. Certainly, it is by Allah’s deceit that brought many people into believing to a false Jesus.
Going back to the time when sin is about to invade the world (according to the Quran), we will clearly see how Allah became the prime factor of man’s fall. Accordingly, Allah commanded his angels to bow down before the first man he created (a thing never done the true God of the Bible). But since he was not an angel but a Jinn, Satan (Iblis) refused to bow down. But Allah asked him to do so, and Satan refused. By this reason, Satan was cast off from heaven and regarded as a rebel. Granting that this history was true, how come that the people of this world be safe when Allah deceives them cunningly if a more powerful spirit has been deceived easily?
But despite of Muslim’s ardent and keen defense for what they regarded as truth, error will remain an error. Reality proves the authenticity of the Scriptures and history have plenty of evidences to support the biblical claim about His death. But with regards to Quran, the Islamic teachings was found wanting when it comes to credible evidences. This might be the reason why the Islamic circle itself was divided about the matter of the crucifixion. While Muslim theologians of our time are debunking the story of the Savior’s death, many early and credible Islamic scholars gave way not only to the possibility of the crucifixion, but to the authenticity of this event. One example of these respected scholars is al-Tabari. According to his writing;
According to Ibn Humayd- Ibn Ishaq- an impeccable authority– Wahb b. Munabbih al-Yamani: GOD ALLOWED JESUS, THE SON OF MARY, TO DIE AT THREE O’CLOCK IN THE DAY; then He took him unto himself.
According to Ibn Humayd- Salamah- Ibn Ishaq: The Christians assert that God granted him death for seven hours of the day, and then resurrected him saying, ‘Descend upon Mary Magdalene on her mountain, for nobody wept for thee as she did, nor did anybody grieve for thee as she did. Let her assemble for thee the apostles, and send them forth as preachers for God, for you have not done that.’ God let him descend to her; the mountain was aglow with light as he descended, and she gathered the apostles. Jesus sent them out and commanded to tell men IN HIS NAME of the divine injunction. Then God raised Jesus unto Himself, gave him wings of an angel and dressed him in radiance. No longer did Jesus relish food or drink; he was flying along with the angels, around the throne.
He was (both) human and angelic, celestial and terrestrial. The apostles then dispersed, as commanded. The night on which he was sent down is celebrated by the Christians with frankincense.”
“According to Ibn Humayd- Salamah- Ibn Ishaq- ‘Umar b. ‘Abdullah b. Urwah b. al-Zubayr- Ibn Sulaym al-Ansari al-Zuraqi: One of our women was under a vow to appear on al-Jamma’, a mountain in ‘Aqiq near Madinah, and I went with her. We stood on the mountain and, lo and behold, there was a huge grave with two huge stone slabs over it- one at the head, one at the feet. On them was an inscription in the ancient script (musnad) which I could not decipher. I carried the slabs with me halfway down the mountain, they proved too heavy, however, so I threw one (down) and descended with the other. I showed it to readers of Syriac (to determine) whether they knew its script; but they did not. I showed it to psalm (zabur) copyists from the Yaman and those versed in reading the musnad script; but they did not recognize it, either.
As I found nobody who recognized it, I threw it under a coffer we had, and there it lay for years. Then people from Mah in Persia cam to us looking for pearls, and I said to them, ‘ Do you have a script?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. I brought out the stone for them and lo and behold, they read it. It was in their script, ‘This is the tomb of Jesus, son of Mary, God’s messenger to the people of this land.’ They were its people at that time. Among them HE DIED, SO THEY BURIED HIM ON THE MOUNTAINTOP.
According to Ibn Humyad- Salamah- Ibn Ishaq: The rest of the apostles were assaulted, viciously exposed to the sun, tortured, and dishonorably paraded. The Roman king, who ruled over them and who was an idol-worshiper, heard this. He was told that a man among the Israelites, subject to his rule, WAS ASSAULTED AND SLAIN. The man had announced to them that he was God’s messenger. He performed miracles, revived the dead and healed the sick. He created a bird of clay, breathed into it, and it flew, by God’s permission. He told them of hidden things. The king exclaimed, ‘But why did you not mention this to me, about him and them? By God, had I known, I would not have let them have a free hand against him!’ Then he sent for the apostles and snatched them from the hands of the Israelites. He asked the apostles about the faith of Jesus and about his fate. They told him, whereupon he embraced their faith. The king released Sergius, and concealed him. He took THE WOODEN CROSS WHICH JESUS HAD BEEN CRUCIFIED, AND HE HONORED AND PRESERVED IT BECAUSE JESUS HAD TOUCHED IT. The king became thus became an enemy of the Israelites, and killed many of them. From this arose Christianity in Rome.
(The History of Al-Tabari: The Ancient Kingdoms, translated by Moshe Perlmann [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1987], Volume IV, pp. 120-124)
Meanwhile, commenting about the substitution theory, Yusuf Ali, in a footnote of Surah 19:33 stated;
“… Christ was not crucified (iv. 157). But those who believe that he never died should ponder over this verse.” (Ali, The Holy Quran [The Holy Koran Publishing Company], p.774, f. 2485)
These documents show that the Quranic account about Christ are less credible indeed. It only shows that the Muslim apologists of our time should not boast in front of Christians since their very own scholars doesn’t have the ability to establish a concrete conclusion regarding the issue. In fact, they didn’t corroborate with one another when it comes to some branches of this topic. While majority of Islamic people say that Christ was substituted by someone in the cross, another group of Muslims believe that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, but merely fell unconscious (“swooned”), and was later revived in the tomb in the same mortal body. Perhaps the biggest proponent of this Swoon Hypothesis (as it was called) over the past 20 years has been Muslim scholar Ahmed Deedat of South Africa whose book “Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction” has been widely printed and distributed all over the Muslim World. But lastly, some Muslims hold to a different belief which teaches that Jesus, according to Muhammad, died in Kashmir at the age of one hundred and twenty years. Ahmadiyyas have advocated this view for over 100 years. Muslim and Persian sources purport to trace the sojourn of Jesus, known as Isa, or Yuz Asaf (“leader of the healed”) along the old Silk Road to the orient. The books, “Christ in Kashmir” by Aziz Kashmiri, and “Jesus Lived in India “by Holger Kersten, list documents and articles in support of this view. They believe Yuz Asaf to be buried at the Roza Bal shrine in Srinagar, India. (Wikipedia). However, at the end of all these contradicting Islamic interpretations, Shabir Ally stated;
“For Sunnis the end of Jesus’ career is a mystery. The traditional interpre-tation of Quran 4:157 has been almost universal in saying that someone else was on the cross. But some modern interpreters are willing to accept that what was really meant was that Jesus did not die on the cross. It seems to me that this latter approach is more likely to be correct.” (The Review of Religions by Arif Khan)
Adding to these horrible contradictions, some Muslim writers say that it was a disciple of Jesus who was placed on the cross in His stead. Another Muslim writer, Tabari, quoting Ibn Ishaq, said it was a man by the name of Sargus,
or Sergius, who was placed on the cross. Another Muslim writer by the
name of Baidawi, said it was a Jew named Titanus who was placed on the
cross. Another, Ath-Tha-‘labi, says it was a Jew named Fal Tayanus, who
was placed on the cross. And still another Muslim writer. Wahb ibn
Munabbah, said it was a Rabbi of the Jews, Ashyu, who was placed on the
cross. Then, others feeling that it might be a little unfair to put an inno-
cent man there, say, well, it must be Judas Iscariot who was placed on
the cross. These contradictions are clear evidences that the Islamic teaching which debunks the biblical account is certainly spurious and incredible. In the court, one cannot be considered as truth without a single clear statement backed by concrete evidences, and this actually what happened to the Islamic teaching.
But looking back into the Bible and in historical accounts, we will see a clear and stable record of the crucifixion. The testimonies of those very witnesses in the New Covenant are well-supported by the prophecies of the early servants and prophets of God. Outside of the Bible, both history and archeological evidences support the biblical account. The Talmud itself, though stand critical to Jesus, speaks about the crucifixion. The Tractate Sanhedrin (43a) contains this passage:
Jesus was hanged on Passover Eve. Forty days previously the herald had cried, “He is being led out for stoning, because he has practiced sorcery and led Israel astray and enticed them into apostasy. Whosoever has anything to say in his defense, let him come and declare it.” As nothing was brought forward in his defense, he was hanged on Passover Eve.
All in all, the accounts of Christ’s death in the Calvary are well-supported and authenticated by the records of reality and well-elaborated in the Holy Scriptures. The Muslim world refutes this story intensively, though not by abundance of evidences from non-religious references, but by all means of philosophical reasoning and assertions, despite the fact that their very own Quran speaks about the truthfulness of the Hebrew Scriptures and the gospel. It only shows that while the Quran is claiming to be a word of God, in reality, this book commits a self-destruction.