The Crucifixion in the Bible and the Quran: A Critical Examination (updated)

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

The Crucifixion in the Bible and the Quran: A Critical Examination

Originally Published: January 19, 2014

Updated: December 1, 2022

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“˹Remember˺ when Allah said, “O Jesus! I will take you and raise you up to Myself. I will deliver you from those who disbelieve, and elevate your followers above the disbelievers until the Day of Judgment. Then to Me you will ˹all˺ return, and I will settle all your disputes.”

– The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Imran, 3:55

            The story of the crucifixion is one of the most famous stories in the history of the world. Moreover, it is this story which is at the heart of the differences which divide members of the two largest religions in the world: Christianity and Islam. For Christians, the crucifixion of Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is not only a true event, but an event which served the ultimate purpose of atoning for humanity’s sins. It is for this all-important foundation that Christianity places such emphasis on the crucifixion, for without it (and also the resurrection), there would be no salvation and the central tenets Christianity would fall apart.[1] On the other hand, the Islamic view of the crucifixion is very different, denying not only that Jesus was crucified but that it has absolutely no importance to humanity’s salvation. Given these opposing views on the importance (or lack thereof) of the crucifixion, it is therefore advisable to critically examine this event as told in the Gospels and the Quran in order to determine which version is factual and which is not and whether the Christian faith has any foundation to stand upon; for if the Christian story of the crucifixion (like many stories of the Bible) is false, then it behooves objective researchers to question the entire basis of Christian theology, and hence, Christianity itself. In this article, we will briefly summarize the story of the crucifixion as told in the Gospels and analyze it to reveal the difficulties and contradictions within the text. Next, we will compare it to the brief Quranic version to see if the latter suffers from the same difficulties and contradictions. Through this analysis, it should become clear to the reader that as with many stories of the Bible, the Biblical version of the crucifixion cannot stand the weight of objective scrutiny, and that faithful Christians should take a second look at the Quranic version which they have been taught to cast aside so easily.

The Crucifixion in the Gospels

            The crucifixion story is found in all four Gospels. While some details are similar, there are also differences. These differences will be discussed in more detail in the analysis further below. In this section, we will summarize the events surrounding the crucifixion, both before and after, as stated in the Gospels.

According to the gospels, while attending the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus predicted that one of them would betray him, referring of course to Judas.[2] After the supper, Jesus went with his disciples to Gethsemane, where he prayed to God to save him from certain death, but ultimately consigned himself to God’s will.[3] It was at this point that Judas arrived with a group of armed men, sent by the Jewish leaders to arrest Jesus.[4]

After being arrested, Jesus was promptly taken before the Sanhedrin to stand trial for blasphemy. After being questioned whether he was “the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One”, Jesus stated that he was, causing the high priest to tear his clothes and render judgment upon Jesus.[5]

After being found guilty by the Sanhedrin, Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. After questioning Jesus, Pilate saw no reason to execute him, but because of the hostile Jewish crowd, he was forced to order the execution. The crowd was so adamant on having Jesus crucified that when given the choice of choosing a prisoner to be released as part of an alleged Passover custom, they requested that Pilate release a dangerous rebel known as Barabbas, a man who had committed murder during a failed uprising.[6]

With his fate sealed, Jesus was led to a place known as Golgotha, where he was crucified, along with two other men.[7] The time of the crucifixion was 9 a.m. on Friday and at noon, darkness covered the land and lasted until 3 p.m.[8] Shortly thereafter, Jesus died. Immediately following his death, the curtain of the temple was torn in two.[9]

In the evening of the same day, Jesus’ body was turned over to Joseph of Arimathea, who placed it in a tomb and rolled a large stone at the entrance.[10] Shortly after sunrise on Sunday, the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome went to the tomb to anoint the body.[11] However, they found that the stone had been rolled away and the body was missing. Instead, they found a man (an angel) who announced to them that Jesus had risen and that he would meet the disciples at Galilee.[12] Hence, Jesus’ earlier prophecy that he would be resurrected after three days and three nights, just as Jonah had spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, was fulfilled.[13]

After appearing to the remaining disciples (since Judas had died) and giving his last instructions, Jesus “ascended” to heaven,[14] thereby setting the stage for the apostolic age when the disciples would go out to the world and preach the “good news”. According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus first appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus.[15] After talking to Jesus in Emmaus, where they finally recognized him, the disciples returned to Jerusalem,[16] which was about  “about seven miles” from Emmaus.[17] When they informed the other disciples in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to them all.[18] After that, he led them to the “vicinity of Bethany”,[19] a trip of less than two miles.[20] It was here that he finally ascended.

An Analysis of the Story

            In the short summary above, we outlined the events surrounding the crucifixion as told in the gospels. As such, it should be clear to the reader that there is actually no agreed-upon version of these events. The gospels, while having some similarities, also differ greatly in their recounting of the events of that fateful day. In this section, we will discuss these differences and show why they are irreconcilable and greatly damage the credibility of the Christian claims regarding the most famous execution in history. We will also discuss other problems in the gospel accounts.[21]

Judas’ Betrayal and Death –

As stated in the summary, when attending the Last Supper, Jesus announced to his disciples that one of them would betray him. All of the gospels agree that this traitor was Judas. However, Mark, Luke and John do not mention what actually happened to Judas afterwards. The details of his remorse and suicide are found in the Gospel of Matthew only.[22] According to Matthew’s account, in his remorse, Judas attempted to return the money he had been paid by the priests to betray Jesus, in fulfillment of an alleged prophecy made by the prophet Jeremiah:

“Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.””[23]

Interestingly, the New International Version states in a footnote that this prophecy is actually a combination of several verses from the books of Jeremiah and Zechariah.[24] Hence, not only did Matthew misquote Jeremiah, he neglected to mention that parts of the alleged prophecy were also made by Zechariah. However, it should also be noted that none of the verses from Jeremiah or Zechariah have anything to do with the Messiah and are merely taken out of context. As Louay Fatoohi has stated:

“All that can be found in [Jeremiah] is a reference to the prophet being commanded to visit a potter (Jer. 18:2-3) and elsewhere to him buying a field from his cousin (Jer. 32:7-9).

The closest passage to this text is found in Zechariah, but the context is completely different and has no relation to the Messiah.”[25]

Fatoohi also notes that in their realization of this misquote of the Tanakh, later Christian scribes attempted to hide the error:

“Matthew’s erroneous attribution of the prophecy to Jeremiah has resulted in some scribes changing ‘Jeremiah’ to ‘Zechariah’ in some manuscripts, or omitting the name of the prophet altogether in others!”[26]

Indeed, the late Biblical scholar Bruce Metzger noted the variation in the existing manuscripts, though he explained that the name “Jeremiah” is “firmly established”.[27] Clearly, Matthew’s appeal to the prophets cannot be explained away as anything other than an error, which explains why some scribes changed the name from “Jeremiah” to “Zechariah”. Incidentally, Matthew’s Gospel has other misquotes of the Tanakh, but that is outside the scope of this article.[28]

Another problem regarding Judas’ death is a different account found in the Book of Acts. While the Gospel of Matthew claims that Judas returned the money to the priests who then used it to purchase the “Field of Blood”, Acts claims that he used the money to buy the field himself and committed suicide there:

“(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)”[29]

It is obvious that the two versions are contradictory and cannot be reconciled. Judas could not have returned the money to the priests and used the money to buy the field at the same time. Similarly, the field could not have been purchased by the priests and Judas at the same time. The manner of his death also appears contradictory. Either he hung himself or he fell and spilled his intestines out.

Jesus’ Prayer at Gethsemane –

After the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples went to Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed to God. The only difference between the gospel accounts here, as previously mentioned, is the addition made by Luke:

“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”[30]

The theological ramifications of this incident are of course clearly evident. Since Christians believe that Jesus was God incarnate, it is difficult to understand why he would feel the need to pray. The gospels claim that he was praying to the “Father”, yet if Jesus is God “the Son”, as later Christian doctrine put it, and all three persons of the trinity are “co-equal”,[31] then why would Jesus pray to the “Father”? Why was “God” praying to Himself? Of course, this human example of Jesus’ character is not unique. The Gospels are littered with passages which clearly show that Jesus was human and not divine. The trinitarian response to this objection is to claim that the second person of the trinity, the “son”, took on a human nature during the incarnation, and thus, it was due to this that Jesus worshiped God while also being “God” (i.e., he had 2 “natures”). However, this fails to take into account that in Revelation 3:12, the “heavenly” Jesus still refers to his “God”, indicating that he still worships God while in heaven.[32] Thus, even after going “back” to heaven, the second person of the trinity has a God and worships Him.

The Arrest of Jesus –

Having betrayed Jesus, Judas led a crowd (obviously before he felt remorse and committed suicide) of armed men to him so that he could be arrested. The gospels claim that in defense of Jesus, Peter attacked the servant of the high priest (Malchus) and cut off his ear. However, Luke claims in addition that after rebuking Peter, Jesus healed the servant.[33] At this point, we must ask the obvious question. If Jesus really did heal this man in front of the entire hostile crowd, why did they still arrest him and take him to the Sanhedrin, instead of being amazed at his powers and perhaps running off in fear? This inconsistency becomes even more difficult to explain given that during the trial, these same people began mocking Jesus by blindfolding him and asking him to identify who was hitting him![34] Did they need more proof of his abilities? Even if we assume that the people who arrested Jesus were not the same people who were later mocking him, we still have to ask why the former witnessed Jesus’ miraculous powers and yet still managed to keep calm and handed him over to the Sanhedrin.

Another curious incident during the arrest is Jesus’ admonition to Peter for attacking the high priest’s servant. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus rebukes Peter by stating:

“Put your sword back in its place”…“for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”[35]

So, according to Matthew, Jesus allegedly stated that anyone who uses a sword will die by the sword. One need only look at the history of warfare to find numerous examples of warriors and generals who spent most of their adult lives in battle, yet who were not slain in battle or met their deaths “by the sword”. A good example is Genghis Khan, the Mongol warlord who spent most of his life building his vast empire by conquering and pillaging numerous cities and nations, killing millions in the process. Yet this tyrant’s death was definitely not by the sword but most probably by a combination of old age and a freak accident on his horse. According to historical sources:

“The great Khan, who was over 60 and in failing health, may have succumbed to injuries incurred during a fall from a horse in the previous year.”[36]

Another good example of a warrior who “lived by the sword” is one of the most famous kings in Christian history, Charlemagne. Charlemagne is described as a:

“A skilled military strategist, [who] spent much of his reign engaged in warfare in order to accomplish his goals.”[37]

Yet, Charlemagne did not die in battle but instead, from natural causes.[38] So clearly, not everyone who has ever handled a sword has died by it. Hence, Christian apologists have had to come up with possible explanations for Jesus’ warning to Peter. Albert Barnes, a well-known Christian commentator on the Bible, claimed that it was only a general warning to Peter and that it was merely “common” for those who “engaged in wars” to “perish” in wars:

“…the most satisfactory interpretation is that which regards it as a caution to Peter. Peter was rash. Alone he had attacked the whole band. Jesus told him that his unseasonable and imprudent defense might be the occasion of his own destruction. In doing it he would endanger his life, for they who took the sword perished by it. This was probably a proverb, denoting that they who engaged in wars commonly perished there.”[39]

It should be noticed by the astute reader how Barnes inserted the word “commonly” to make the statement less restrictive. Of course, there is nothing in the verse to indicate that Jesus was only making a general statement that could apply to some people and not all people. He clearly stated that it applied to “all” people. The Greek word used in the text is “πάντες” (pantes), which is defined by the NAS Exhaustive Concordance as meaning “all” or “every”.[40] The same word is used in other instances throughout the New Testament where it is clear that it is referring to all parties concerned, and not just some.[41] Therefore, the only reasonable conclusion is that the alleged statement attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew has been proven demonstrably false by the facts of history. It can also be considered a false prophecy.

Jesus before the Sanhedrin –

After the arrest, Jesus was brought to a late-night session of the Sanhedrin. It is generally agreed among the Gospels that the presiding priest was Caiaphas. However, the Gospel of John adds that before being sent to Caiaphas, Jesus was first brought before Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas. The author of the gospel claims that Caiaphas was the high priest “that year”, while Luke’s gospel claims that Annas and Caiaphas jointly held the position. However, both assertions have been criticized by historians as being inaccurate. As Fatoohi notes:

“First, the Old Testament, the writings of Josephus and Philo, and rabbinic literature unanimously testify that the office of high priest can be held by one person only. Luke’s claim that Annas and Caiaphas held the high priesthood jointly is unhistorical. Second, John’s claim that the high priesthood was rotated annually is untrue…”[42]

In fact, Josephus states clearly that Annas was followed by a brief succession of high priests who ruled for a short period of time (not more than a year), after which Caiaphas was given the position. In other words, there was never an instance where both Annas and Caiaphas jointly held the position of high priest:

“[Valerius Gratus] deprived Ananus [Annas] of the high priesthood, and appointed Ismael, the son of Phabi, to be high priest. He also deprived him in a little time, and ordained Eleazar, the son of Ananus, who had been high priest before, to be high priest: which office, when he had held for a year, Gratus deprived him of it, and gave the high priesthood to Simon, the son of Camithus; and, when he had possessed that dignity no longer than a year, Joseph Caiaphas was made his successor.”[43]

It is also known that Caiaphas ruled continuously from 18-37 CE.[44] Therefore, the historical evidence negates the Gospel claims that the office of high priest was rotated annually or that there could be two high priests at the same time. However, Mark Strauss argues that Luke’s claim of Annas and Caiaphas jointly serving as high priest is not necessarily wrong. Even though Annas was deposed in 15 CE, he “continued to wield enormous influence, and was viewed popularly as high priest.”[45] However, Strauss did not provide evidence for Annas’ “popularity” other than to cite the John 18:13 and Acts 4:6.

Besides this historical error, it must also be noted (as stated above) that while the Synoptics agree that Jesus was brought before Caiaphas only, the Gospel of John states that he was brought to Annas first and then Caiaphas. This contradiction cannot be explained in any rational way. Since Caiaphas was the high priest, why would Jesus have been brought to Annas first? The Gospel of John offers no explanation.

Jesus before Pilate –

Having been condemned by the Sanhedrin for blasphemy, Jesus was sent before the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate. As stated above, Pilate saw no guilt in Jesus and wanted to release him. According to Luke, Pilate even sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, who also found no guilt in the man. However, Pilate was thwarted by the Jewish crowd in his effort to release Jesus. They wanted blood and demanded that Pilate sentence Jesus to be crucified. When Pilate gave them the choice to select a prisoner to be released due to the Passover custom, they chose a rebel known as Barabbas. Each of these aspects of the trial presided over by Pilate render the story to be inconsistent and confusing, as we will now see.

First, we must ask why a Roman prefect was so easily influenced by the Jews and anxiously willing to meet their demands. After all, it was the Romans who were the rulers of the land, and not the Jews. Furthermore, as Josephus makes clear, Pilate was known to be a persecutor of the Jews.[46] Therefore, why would he be so anxious to please them? Additionally, why would Pilate have sent Jesus to Herod? Why would a Roman prefect need a Jewish tetrarch’s opinion?

Furthermore, Luke claims that the trial of Jesus led to a friendship between Pilate and Herod, whereas before, they had been enemies.[47] This would imply that at the time Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, they were still enemies, which makes Pilate’s sending of Jesus to Herod all the more incredible! This contradiction makes Luke’s claim of Herod’s involvement in the trial all the more bizarre and nothing more than a historical fantasy. Not only that, but the reality is that Pilate and Herod remained enemies until the end of the former’s reign. As C. Dennis McKinsey states:

“Pilate and Herod were enemies to the day of Pilate’s recall to Rome. Herod was continually plotting to unite his Galilee with Pilate’s Judea, which Herod’s father had promised him.”[48]

Second, the Gospels’ claim of an alleged custom of releasing a prisoner to the Jews out of respect for the festival of Passover is also a historical fiction. There is no evidence, outside of the Gospels, of any such custom. As McKinsey notes:

“There is no historical authority or precedent whatever for this alleged custom. No Roman government could have safely adopted it.”[49]

Furthermore, as Fatoohi observes, the Gospels contradict each other as to whose custom it really was:

“Mark is unclear as to whose custom the Passover amnesty was, Matthew makes it Roman, and John [has] Pilate clearly state that it was Jewish! This alleged custom has no historical basis…”[50]

In addition, one must ask whether a Roman governor would have foolishly released an enemy of the empire, such as the rebel Barabbas. The Gospels state that Barabbas was an insurrectionist and had committed murder.[51] It is hard to believe that a Roman ruler would release such a man to please the Jews or even give them the choice in the matter.[52] A man such as Barabbas would have been considered an enemy of the state and far too dangerous to be allowed to go free, especially for such a trivial reason as some vague custom for which no historical evidence exists anyway. Given the contradictory nature of this part of the story, as well as the lack of historical evidence vouching for its veracity, it must surely be rejected as another historical fantasy. In fact, Biblical scholar Reza Aslan suggests that the story was concocted by the author of the Gospel of Mark (the first gospel to be written) as a way to break any link between Christians and Jewish revolutionary ideology, since the gospel had been written for a Roman audience in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem.[53]

Apologetic sources have claimed that there is evidence for such clemency in the Papyrus Florentinus from the year 85 CE. As David Garland states:

“A papyrus from a.d. 85 contains a report of judicial proceedings before the prefect of Egypt and quotes the words from the governor to the prisoner: ‘You were worthy of scourging … but I will give you to the people.’”[54]

However, this does not serve as proof for the alleged “Passover custom” that forced Pilate to foolishly release a murderer. As Paul Winter explains in his book On the Trial of Jesus:

“…we do not know whether legal proceedings had already been instituted when the presumed culprit’s release was ordered. In any case, the person in question had not been accused of a capital offense.”[55]

Indeed, the Papyrus Florentinus states that the accused man was only “worthy of scourging”, not death. While scourging was a brutal punishment in its own right and was often inflicted on criminals condemned to death by crucifixion, it was also used by the Romans for non-capital offenses as well.[56] In fact, according to Luke 23:16, Pilate found no guilt in Jesus but still offered to “punish” him and then release him as a concession to the Jews:

“Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

Thus, the Papyrus Florentinus does not provide evidence for a “Passover custom” that would explain Pilate’s clemency for Barabbas.

The Crucifixion –

Having been condemned to death, Jesus was sent away to be crucified. As stated in the summary, he was crucified on Friday at 9 a.m.

It is suggested that Jesus was crucified naked, as Matthew 27:35 states that “they divided up his clothes…” Michael J. Wilkins explains in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary that”

“[b]y so doing they take away his final external dignity and protection from the flies and elements that torture his beaten body.”[57]

Christians claim that the crucifixion and the dividing of the clothes were prophesied in Psalm 22:16-18:

“Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

This is primarily due to verse 16, which seems to suggest that the speaker was being “pierced” by his enemies, thus leading Christians to suggest that the “piercing” was through the driving of nails during a crucifixion. However, the text is actually not that clear-cut at all. Even the NIV admits in a footnote to verse 16:

“Dead Sea Scrolls and some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Septuagint and Syriac; most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text me, / like a lion…”[58]

In other words, the original (if it can be called that) reading of the psalm says nothing about “piercing” but rather a symbolic description of “dogs” and “villains” attacking the speaker’s hands and feet like lions. As Willem VanGemeren explains in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary:

“Just as the imagery of the enemies as bulls and lions (vv. 12–13) evokes feelings of fear and powerlessness, so also the imagery of the dogs creates a picture of a powerless, righteous sufferer on the heap of ashes. The dogs viciously attack him, gnawing at and biting into his feet and hands. He is but skin and bones (v. 17) and is unable to ward them off. His misery is the source of gloating and entertainment.”[59]

Thus, the New English Translation (NET) renders verse 16 as follows:

“Yes, wild dogs surround me—a gang of evil men crowd around me; like a lion they pin my hands and feet.”

Many Christian apologists have claimed that a controversial fragment of Psalm 22 found among the Dead Sea Scrolls actually supports the reading of “pierced”. This is the famous Nachal Hever scroll, which is dated to the 1st century CE.[60]

Nachal-Hever-Psalm-22
Figure 1: The Nachal Hever scroll showing Psalm 22:16 (Source: https://outreachjudaism.org/crucifixion-psalm/).

It has been argued by the likes of the late Dr. Peter Flint that the Hebrew text in the scroll reads k’rû, which is translated as “they pierced”.[61] However, other scholars, such as Dr. Kipp Davis, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, have argued that the correct reading in the scroll is indeed “like a lion”.[62] Ironically, even if the reading k’rû was correct, it should not be translated as “they pierced” but rather as “they dug” or “they bound”. According to the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), the verb כרה means “to hollow out, dig”, but can also be defined as “to wind a turban”, or in the context of the psalm, to “bind together”.[63] The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) defines it as “dig, excavate; dig through”.[64] None of these definitions would be suggestive of a crucifixion. In fact, there is a perfectly good Hebrew word for “pierce”, which is דקר (dāqar). The HALOT defines it as “to pierce through”.[65] The TWOT similarly defines it as “pierce, pierce through, thrust through.”[66] Thus, if the author of the psalm intended to refer to the “piercing” of nails during a crucifixion, he used the wrong word!

The other issue with the Christian claim is that the rest of the psalm seems to indicate that the speaker prayed to God for help and was rescued from his enemies. Starting with verse 19, the speaker appeals to God to “come quickly to help me” (verse 19), “[d]eliver me from the sword” (verse 20), and “[r]escue me from the mouth of the lions” (verse 21), and then the speaker states that God has indeed “listened to his cry for help” (verse 24). VanGemeren explains that:

“Yahweh has responded to his prayer and has removed the suffering from his servant (v. 24). No longer need he ask why his God has forsaken him (vv. 1–2), because the Lord has blessed him by not hiding his face…”[67]

Thus, if Psalm 22 was originally meant to be about the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), instead of King David (peace be upon him), then it would imply that God “rescued” Jesus from the crucifixion! In fact, elsewhere, the Gospel of Matthew associated another psalm with Jesus, and this psalm also indicates that God will protect His prophet!

In Matthew 4:6, Satan tempts Jesus (peace be upon him) to throw himself down from the highest point of the temple, citing Psalm 91:11-12 to claim that no harm would come to Jesus (note that Jesus seems to accept the interpretation). Indeed, Psalm 91:11-12 states:

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

And if we keep reading, God Himself promises that He will rescue the one who “loves” him:

“‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’”[68]

Note the clear parallel to Psalm 22, where the speaker calls on God to rescue him, and here, God promises to do just that! He will “deliver him and honor him”. If this applies to Jesus (peace be upon him), then he should have been rescued from the cross.

Moving on, the gospel accounts state that three hours after Jesus was nailed to the cross, a mysterious period of darkness, perhaps due to a solar eclipse,[69] covered the land, lasting until 3 p.m., shortly after which Jesus died. Following his death, more strange events occurred which obviously were meant to coincide with his death. There was an earthquake, dead saints rose from their graves and the temple curtain was torn in two:

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”[70]

However, there are good reasons to reject these fantastical claims. If these events were allegedly witnessed by many people, why do we not have any non-Biblical corroboration for it? Surely, the dead rising from their graves would have been worthy of mention in the historical sources![71] Yet not one historical source from the time mentions it. As McKinsey notes:

“As incredible as these events are, no historian of antiquity mentions them.”[72]

The same problem exists with the claim made in the gospels about the period of darkness that allegedly covered the land when Jesus was crucified. No historical evidence exists for this event outside the Bible. Christian apologists have appealed to Julius Africanus, who quoted from the now lost writings of the historian Thallus allegedly referring to a solar eclipse which occurred around the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. However, this appeal is without merit, as Julius Africanus actually refuted the possibility of any solar eclipse occurring.[73] Interestingly, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a solar eclipse did occur on March 19, 33 CE.[74] However, the exact year of the crucifixion is not known with any certainty (let alone the exact day), though the year 33 CE has been suggested as the most likely year. Jesus’ alleged death is thought to have occurred on April 3, 33 CE,[75] which would have been more than 2 weeks after the solar eclipse on March 19. Also, according to NASA’s calculations, this eclipse would not even have been visible from Jerusalem, but more towards Antarctica.[76] Therefore, that eclipse cannot have been the source of the “darkness”. Most likely, the author of the gospel made up the incident as he did with the “dead saints” rising from their graves and appearing to many people in Jerusalem. It is possible that the gospel writers had the eclipse of March 19, 33 CE in mind but got the date wrong when they wrote their respective accounts several decades later. It is also possible that the later gospels, Matthew and Luke, blindly used Mark’s report without verifying it, and it was Mark who made the initial mistake.

Therefore, the Gospel accounts of strange events occurring during and after the crucifixion cannot be accepted as historically accurate. Not only is there a total absence of any eye-witness accounts of these remarkable events, but some could not have happened at all (such as the period of darkness due to a solar eclipse).

Also, the gospel accounts offer contradictory information regarding the location of the disciples during the crucifixion. It is reported that they “disowned” Jesus after his arrest,[77] and there is no indication that any of them were present during the crucifixion. Matthew 27:55 merely states that “many women were there, watching from a distance” (cf. Luke 23:49). Yet, John 19:25-26 contradict this and states that:

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby…”

This contradiction becomes clearer when we consider that Matthew 27 only mentions the women “watching from a distance” after Jesus had already died, but John 19 states that the women and one disciple (usually assumed to be John) were standing close enough that Jesus could speak to them. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two accounts:

Matthew 27:50-56

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. […]

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”

John 19:25-30

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It is a clear-cut contradiction and attempts to “reconcile” the two accounts are bound to fail. In Matthew, the women were far away from Jesus, while in John, they were close enough to hear him speak. Are we to think that they were near him before he died, but then for no reason, decided to move further away so as to watch from a “distance”?

Another problem with the crucifixion account is the behavior of the two men who were crucified with Jesus. Matthew 27:44 states they both mocked Jesus (cf. Mark 15:32):

“In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

But Luke 23:39-41 states that one of the criminals sided with Jesus while the other insulted him:

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’”

In both cases, the actions of the criminals are placed sometime between 9 a.m. and noon, since both then mention the period of “darkness” at noon. This refutes the possible apologetic excuse that both criminals initially insulted Jesus but later, one of them repented and supported Jesus.

The Resurrection –

Finally, the gospels state that after being placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus was raised from the dead, as he had predicted. But as with the other aspects of the story of the crucifixion, the events surrounding the resurrection are marred by inconsistencies and contradictions.[78]

First and foremost, Jesus was supposed to have resurrected after three days and three nights. Before we analyze this prophecy, it needs to be made clear that the time period of “three days and three nights” did not necessarily have to denote three 24-hour periods. The late Biblical scholar Geza Vermes explained that according to “Jewish time reckoning”:

“…part of a day or night was accepted as a full day or night (yShab 12a; bPes4a).”[79]

However, even with this concession, it is obvious that there is absolutely no way for the prophecy to have been fulfilled if Jesus died on Friday and resurrected on Sunday. As Vermes observes:

“This would allow us to count three days from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, but no stretch of the imagination could fit three nights into that period.”[80]

Hence, the prophecy of the “sign of Jonah” was clearly not fulfilled. No satisfactory explanation can be offered to explain this. Nevertheless, Christian apologists have made attempts at explaining the contradiction. One of the most creative is the following, which is taken from an email correspondence I had several years ago with a Christian apologist (who has since converted to Islam):

“In Jewish tradition, part of a day or night could be accepted as a full day or night. Also, when God created the world, He used the word “day” to refer to light, and “night” to refer to darkness. In the Bible, the words day and night can be used to refer to what we would call day and night, but they can also be used to refer to light and darkness. Jesus was crucified on Friday morning (9 a.m.) and between noon and 3 p.m., darkness fell upon the earth. Jesus died on the ninth hour (3 p.m.). He would have died when it was “night”. He hung on the cross for several hours (between 3 p.m. and the evening- when it would have been light outside again- day). In the evening, his body and buried it in a tomb, when it was dark, so that would count as another night. For the whole day on Saturday (day and night), his body lay in the tomb. He rose at dawn on Sunday. Put another way:

3 p.m. – Jesus dies when it is still dark (Night 1).

3 p.m. to evening – Jesus hangs on the cross. It is no longer dark (Day 1).

Friday evening – Jesus is buried (Night 2).

Saturday dawn to evening- Day 2

Saturday night- Night 3

Sunday at dawn- Day 3”

As stated, this is a creative attempt to explain the contradiction, but it still fails. First of all, even if “darkness fell upon the earth” (an event for which there is no historical evidence), it was still during the day. Hence, it was still Day 1 when Jesus allegedly died, not “Night 1”. In fact, Luke claims that the “sun stopped shining”, which is clear evidence that it was still during the day but that there has been a solar eclipse (not really though, as we saw above).[81] According to Genesis, the sun’s specific purpose was to “govern the day”:

“God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.”[82]

This is further proof that it was still daytime. Hence, the argument that since it was dark (which again is an event for which there is no historical evidence) then it was “Night 1”, is untenable.

In addition, since Jesus supposedly died at 3 p.m. when the “darkness” ended, then it was not dark when he died. Matthew sounds rather uncertain as to the exact time since he claims that it was “about three in the afternoon” when Jesus died.[83] Furthermore, Matthew’s description of Jesus’ last minutes suggests that Jesus actually died shortly after 3 p.m.:

“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.”[84]

As can be seen, around 3 p.m., Jesus was close to dying. However, Mark is clear that it was at 3 p.m. that Jesus first cried out,[85] so unless we want to admit that this is yet another contradiction between the gospel accounts, we have to accept Mark’s claim that it was actually 3 p.m. and not “around” 3 p.m. It was at this point, shortly after 3 p.m. (when the darkness had ended), that an unknown person dipped a sponge in wine vinegar and brought it to Jesus. Unless this person was moving extremely fast, he would have brought the sponge a few minutes later, at the very least. It was only then that Jesus finally died. The span of time during which these events occurred would have been a few minutes. There is no way that it was still exactly 3 p.m. Hence, Jesus most likely died after the darkness had already abated. Even if it was still dark, then it means that Jesus was dead for a few seconds at most in the “darkness” before daylight appeared again. It would have made far more sense if he had died sometime in the 3-hour interval of darkness, instead of during the last few seconds. The latter scenario is impossible to prove. And of course, it does not change the fact that it was still during the day. Hence, from the moment of his supposed “death” and his alleged “resurrection”, it would have been 3 days and 2 nights. The Christian attempt to reconcile this contradiction is simply indefensible.

Second, besides the contradiction regarding the “sign of Jonah”, the gospels offer contradictory accounts of other aspects of the resurrection as well. As noted earlier, there are differences between the Gospels as to who exactly visited the tomb first. Let us put the verses side-by-side:

Mark 16:1

Matthew 28:1

Luke 24:1, 9-10

John 20:1

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.”

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.”

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.”

“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.”

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”

There are contradictions between the different gospels, pure and simple.

Third, there is a contradiction among the gospels regarding how many angels informed the women of Jesus’ resurrection. Mark and Matthew agree that there was one angel, although they disagree as to whether he was inside the tomb or outside it when he informed the women of the resurrection or where he was seated:

Mark 16:4-5

Matthew 28:2-3

“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.”

“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.”

However, Luke and John state that there were two angels. Therefore, the gospels contradict each other once again.

Finally, the Gospel of John contradicts the other gospels with regard to when the angel/angels informed Mary Magdalene (and/or the other women) about Jesus’ resurrection. The Synoptics all agree that it was during the initial visit that the angel/angels informed the women, but John’s Gospel clearly shows that it was during a second visit:

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.”[86]

Nothing in this passage suggests that Mary Magdalene saw the angel/angels during her initial visit. Instead, John’s Gospel states that in her first visit, she saw that the stone had been rolled away and immediately went to the disciples and informed them of what had happened. The disciples went to investigate and examined the tomb while Mary Magdalene waited outside. It was then that the angels informed her of the resurrection. The angels were not present or at the very least were not seen by Mary Magdalene during her initial visit. Hence, the Gospel of John very clearly contradicts the Synoptics.

The Ascension –

            As with the crucifixion and resurrection narratives, the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ascension to heaven are fraught with difficulties as well. Out of the four gospels, only Luke specifically mentions that Jesus “ascended”, though the Gospel of John also alludes to it, and the longer ending of the Gospel of Mark (16:9-20) also mentions it. Luke 24:50-51 states:

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.”

The problem with this account is that it seems to indicate that Jesus ascended shortly after the resurrection, perhaps on the same day. The sequence of events shown in the summary above demonstrates that not more than a day had elapsed since the resurrection. Yet, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus appeared to the disciples on multiple occasions, and it was not until a week had gone by that Thomas saw Jesus and finally believed that he had resurrected, after which it is presumed that Jesus ascended once and for all:

“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”[87]

So, which is it? Did Jesus ascend to heaven on the same day as the resurrection (Luke and Mark), or did he ascend several days later (John)? To make matters even more confusing, the Book of Acts (supposedly written by the same person as the Gospel of Luke) claims that Jesus appeared to the disciples “over a period of forty days” before he ascended (Acts 1:3).

A common apologetic excuse for the apparent contradiction between Luke and Acts is to claim that Luke was “telescoping” the account while Acts gave a more detailed account, so that there is actually no contradiction.[88] However, this argument does not work when we also take into account the longer ending of Mark which, even though it is considered by the majority of scholars to be a later addition, is accepted as the original ending by many Christians apologists and is even included in most English translations, albeit with a disclaimer that verses 9-20 are not found in the “earliest” manuscripts.[89] After Jesus appeared to all of the disciples, Mark 16:15 states that he gave a similar command as in Luke 24:47 to the disciples to preach to the whole world. Yet unlike Luke, Mark 16:19 states that “after” Jesus said this, he ascended into heaven (Luke just says that he ascended after taking the disciples to the area around Bethany). Thus, according to the longer ending of Mark, Jesus appeared to the disciples at Emmaus, then at Jerusalem, and then ascended into heaven, all on the same day. There is no indication that Mark was also “telescoping” the account, as he shows that all these things happened in succession. Therefore, there is a contradiction.

Conclusion –

In this analysis, we have seen clear-cut evidence of the inconsistent and contradictory nature of the gospel accounts regarding the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, the crucifixion itself, and the post-crucifixion events of the resurrection and ascension. Objective and fair-minded readers will readily admit this fact. Let us now summarize and examine what the Quran has to say about the subject.

The Crucifixion in the Quran

            The story of the crucifixion as told in the Quran is unlike the Biblical version in many ways. First, the Quranic account does not provide a long narrative of the events both before and after the crucifixion. Second, it only makes a simple declaration regarding the attempt to crucify and kill the Prophet Isa (peace be upon him), which is that he was not crucified or killed at all, although his enemies certainly thought they had done so! The Quran states that prior to the attempt on Prophet Isa’s life, Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) informed the noble prophet that He would save him from his enemies and raise him to Himself:

“˹Remember˺ when Allah said, “O Jesus! I will take you and raise you up to Myself. I will deliver you from those who disbelieve, and elevate your followers above the disbelievers until the Day of Judgment. Then to Me you will ˹all˺ return, and I will settle all your disputes.”[90]

Furthermore, the Quran describes the erroneous claim of the boastful unbelievers that they had killed Prophet Isa (peace be upon him), making it clear that there was no truth to their claims:

“…and for boasting, “We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” But they neither killed nor crucified him—it was only made to appear so. Even those who argue for this ˹crucifixion˺ are in doubt. They have no knowledge whatsoever—only making assumptions. They certainly did not kill him. Rather, Allah raised him up to Himself. And Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.”[91]

On a related note, since Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) was not crucified or killed, it makes perfect sense for the Quran to describe him as a “sign for the Hour”[92] since, as the authentic ahadith state, he will return to earth as the leader of the Muslims near the end times. For example, a hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari states:

“Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are in the protection, of the Muslim government). Then there will be abundance of money and nobody will accept charitable gifts.”[93]

Regarding the Quran’s claim about the crucifixion, Louay Fatoohi observes (emphasis in the original) that:

“[t]he Qur’an is emphatic in denying both the killing and crucifixion of Jesus.”[94]

So, what exactly happened? As the above verses show, there was a definite attempt on the life of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him). There was also a crucifixion, as historians agree. The only difference is that the Quran denies that the crucified person was Isa (peace be upon him), but rather that “it was made to appear so” and that those who believed that he was crucified were in “doubt”.[95] Various theories have been suggested as to how “it was made to appear so”, with many commentators of the Quran suggesting the “substitution theory”. As Fatoohi states:

“Muslim exegetes agree that it was another person who was mistaken for Jesus and killed in his stead. A number of them have even tried to identify the crucified person. One popular theory is that it was one of Jesus’ disciples who was made to look like him and ended up being crucified instead of his master. […] Others identified Judas Iscariot as the one who, involuntarily, became Jesus’ lookalike and was crucified…”[96]

Also, as Dr. Mustafa Khattab states:

“The popular belief among Muslims is that a conspiracy was made to kill Jesus, Allah made the main culprit who betrayed Jesus look exactly like Jesus, then he was crucified in Jesus’ place. Jesus was raised safe and sound to the heavens. Muslims also believe in the second coming of Jesus (ﷺ).”[97]

We should note, however, that all of the theories about who exactly was crucified in Isa’s place are speculative and cannot be accepted outright, nor is the substitution theory necessarily the only possibility. Since the Quran and the authentic ahadith do not provide any details regarding what actually happened, there is no point in trying to figure it out. Any theory presented on the subject would be pure speculation. What is clear, however, is that it was not the Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) who was crucified.

Of course, Christians and secular historians have objected to the Quran’s claim that Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) was not crucified or killed. One of the most common arguments is an appeal to historical sources, including those that have been tampered with by Christians,[98] which all state that Jesus was indeed crucified. Yet as we just noted, the Quran does not deny that a crucifixion occurred. It simply denies that Isa (peace be upon him) was the crucified person. In other words, the Quran states that the prophet was miraculously saved from his enemies who wished to harm him. As such, we would not expect secular sources to acknowledge this miracle. They were, as were the attempted murderers of Isa (peace be upon him), simply assuming that he had been crucified because that is what everyone seemed to believe, despite all the contradictions and inconsistencies in the story. Also, as we have seen above, if the New Testament’s allusions to Psalms 22 and 91 are to be taken seriously, then it is possibly hinted that Jesus (peace be upon him) should have been rescued by God.

Moreover, there is historical evidence that many early Christians believed that Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) actually did escape the crucifixion. As Fatoohi states (emphasis in the original):

“Indeed, the ‘substitute’ theory, as it is known, was adopted throughout history by various heretical Christian groups that refused to accept that Jesus, as a divine being and Son of God could die…”[99]

Of course, this does not mean that the Quran endorses the beliefs of these early Christian sects. It simply proves that the idea that Isa (peace be upon him) escaped crucifixion and death was not an Islamic invention. It clearly had historical precedence. At this point, it is expected that Christian apologists will change gears and accuse the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) of simply plagiarizing from these heretical groups! However, what these people do not realize is that these groups had mostly disappeared by the time of the advent of Islam, thanks to a sustained and relentless campaign of persecution by the church. Why else have the books of these sects only been recently rediscovered? They would not have been known to the early Muslims except perhaps through oral traditions.

Conclusion

            In this article, we have thoroughly analyzed the story of the crucifixion, as told in the Gospels and the Quran. In the analysis of the former, we found irreconcilable contradictions, inconsistencies, and errors. By contrast, the Quranic story lacks any such difficulties, aside from the fact that the claim of a miracle is not accepted by Christians and secular historians. While the Quran’s account is brief, it does not deny the occurrence of a crucifixion (in agreement with historical sources. Rather, it denies that the crucified person was the Prophet Isa (peace be upon him). Moreover, it states that those who believed that he has been crucified and killed followed only “doubts”. Given the contradictory nature of the main sources on this event (the gospels), this is clearly evident.

And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!


[1] In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul stated that “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

[2] Mark 14:18; Matthew 26:20; John 13:26.

Matthew 27 states that Judas later felt remorse for having betrayed Jesus and, after returning the money he had been given by the priests, went out and hung himself. This will be discussed in more detail later. Luke mentions the Last Supper but does not mention Jesus’ prediction of his betrayal.

[3] Mark 14:36; Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42.

Luke 22:43 adds that an angel appeared and “strengthened” Jesus, but this verse is considered spurious since it is not found in earlier manuscripts.

[4] During the commotion, one of Jesus’ disciples (identified by the Gospel of John as Simon Peter) cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, whose name was Malchus. All of the Gospels mention this incident, but Luke’s version adds that Jesus healed the man’s ear, presumably while the crowd looked on in amazement.

[5] Mark 14:61-64; Matthew 26:65.

Luke does not mention the details of the trial but only states that Jesus was taken to the house of the high priest (Luke 22:54). The Gospel of John states that Jesus was first brought to Annas and then to Caiaphas, claiming that the latter was the high priest “that year” (John 18:13), whereas the synoptic Gospels do not mention Jesus being presented before Annas but only before Caiaphas. However, Luke 3:2 states that John the Baptist had first begun preaching during “the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas”. This will be discussed further in the analysis.

[6] Mark 15:6, 15; Matthew 27:15, 20; Luke 23: 18; John 18:39-40.

Luke 23 also adds that before condemning Jesus and releasing Barabbas, Pilate had sent the former to Herod Antipas for questioning. Herod sent Jesus back, having found no evidence to condemn him to death, just as Pilate had determined. The evangelists’ claim of the Roman custom of releasing a prisoner for Passover will be discussed in more detail later.

[7] Mark 15:27; Matthew 27:38; Luke 23:32.

[8] Mark 15:25, 42; Matthew 27:45-46; Luke 23:44-46.

All of the gospels state that it was the “Preparation Day” which is the day before the Sabbath (Saturday). The Gospel of John does not mention the period of darkness or the time of Jesus’ death.

[9] Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:51-53; Luke 23:45.

The Gospel of Matthew claims that in addition to the tearing of the temple curtain, there was also an earthquake and the raising of dead people. See the analysis of the crucifixion story for a discussion of these events.

[10] Mark 15:42-46; Matthew 27:57-60.

[11] Mark 16:1.

Matthew 28:1 states that only Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” visited the tomb. Luke 24:1 only mentions the “women” but later identifies them as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others (Luke 24:10). John 20:1 states that only Mary Magdalene visited the tomb. This issue will be discussed further in the analysis.

[12] Mark 16:4; Matthew 28:5-7; Luke 24:6.

Luke mentions that there were two angels who announced Jesus’ resurrection. The Gospel of John also mentions two angels, but states that this was after Mary’s initial visit. We will discuss the great difference between John’s gospel and the Synoptic gospels on the resurrection account in further detail in the analysis.

[13] Matthew 12:40; Luke 11:30; Mark 8:31.

Mark’s gospel does not mention the “sign of Jonah” and only states that Jesus will rise after three days only and not “three days and three nights”. Luke’s gospel only mentions the “sign of Jonah” without stating “three days and three nights”. The Gospel of John does not specifically mention the “sign of Jonah” but instead alludes to Jesus’ resurrection after three days in a parable about the temple (John 2:20-22). Mark and Matthew also refer to the temple parable. This prophecy will be discussed in the analysis in further detail.

[14] Luke 24:51.

Interestingly, the Gospel of Matthew does not specifically mention the ascension and ends with the so-called “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:16-20). In the longer ending of Mark (which is considered by most scholars to be a later addition), the ascension is mentioned in 16:19. The Gospel of John implies the ascension (John 20:17) but does not actually end with it.

[15] Luke 24:13ff.

[16] Luke 24:33.

[17] Luke 24:13.

[18] Luke 24:36.

[19] Luke 24:50.

[20] John 11:18.

[21] For a complete list of contradictions, errors and inconsistencies in the Gospel accounts, see Louay Fatoohi, The Mystery of the Crucifixion: The Attempt to Kill Jesus in the Quran, New Testament and Historical Sources (Birmingham: Luna Plena Publishing, 2008), pp. 12-38.

[22] The Book of Acts also mentions Judas’ remorse and death. We will discuss this later.

[23] Matthew 27:1-10.

[24] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+27&version=NIV#fen-NIV-24140a

[25] Fatoohi, op. cit., p. 29.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on The Greek New Testament, Second Edition (electronic edition) (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/United Bible Societies, 1994), 55.

[28] For a detailed analysis of other alleged “prophecies”, see my article: “The Gospel of Matthew and the Tanakh: An Analysis of Alleged Prophecies About Jesus”.

[29] Acts 1:18.

[30] Luke 22:43-44.

[31] According to one Christian website:

“God is a trinity of persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as Father. They are not three gods and not three beings. They are three distinct persons; yet, they are all the one God. Each has a will, can speak, can love, etc., and these are demonstrations of personhood. They are in absolute perfect harmony consisting of one substance. They are coeternal, coequal, and copowerful. If any one of the three were removed, there would be no God.”

[32] Revelation 3:12 quotes “Jesus” as saying:

“The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.”

For a detailed discussion of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) in the Bible and the Quran, see my article: “Jesus in the Bible and the Quran: A Comparative Analysis”.

[33] Luke 22:51.

[34] Luke 22:63; also Mark 14:65 and Matthew 26:67-68.

[35] Matthew 26:52-54.

[36] http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/genghis-khan-dies

[37] http://www.history.com/topics/charlemagne

[38] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/einhard.asp#Coronation%20of%20Louis%20-%20Charlemagne%27s%20Death

[39] http://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/matthew/26.htm

[40] http://biblehub.com/nasec/greek/3956.htm

[41] Ibid.

[42] Fatoohi, op. cit., p. 35.

[43] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18:3.

[44] Mark Strauss, “Luke”, in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 1: Matthew, Mark , Luke (electronic edition), ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), 352.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18:3.

[47] Luke 23:12.

[48] C. Dennis McKinsey, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (New York: Prometheus Books, 1995), p. 341.

[49] Ibid., p. 344.

[50] Fatoohi, op. cit., p. 38.

[51] According to Biblical scholar Reza Aslan, Barabbas had actually killed Roman guards (Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Random House, 2013), p. 148).

[52] Ibid.

[53] Aslan, op. cit., pp. 149-150.

[54] David E. Garland, “Mark”, in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 1, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), 296; cf. Walter W. Wessel, “Mark”, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke (electronic edition), ed. F.E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 774.

[55] Paul Winter, On the Trial of Jesus (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1974), p. 131.

[56] E. Mary Smallwood, The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian, A Study in Political Relations (Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1976), p. 169.

[57] Michael J. Wilkins, “Matthew”, in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 1, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), 179.

 [58] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+22&version=NIV#fen-NIV-14221e

[59] Willem A. VanGemeren, (1991), “Psalms”, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, ed. F. E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 206.

[60] Michael Rydelnk, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), p. 45.

[61] Ibid.

[62] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY-HkUn0KQk

[63] Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament. Volumes 1-4 (electronic edition), trans. M.E.J Richardson (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 496-497.

[64] Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic edition), eds. R. L. Harris, G.L. Archer, & B.K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 454.

[65] Koehler, Baumgartner, and Stamm, op. cit., 230.

[66] TWOT, op. cit., 195.

[67] VanGemeren, op. cit., 209.

[68] Psalm 91:14-16.

[69] Luke 23:45 states that that “the sun stopped shining”, which would indicate a solar eclipse. Early Christian commentators assumed it was an eclipse, as well. Ephrem the Syrian stated:

“If he had been the son of a foreign god, the sun would not have been eclipsed when the Lord was raised on his cross” (as cited in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament III: Luke (electronic edition), ed. Arthur A. Just Jr. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 368.

[70] Matthew 27:51-53.

[71] For a thorough discussion of this issue, see my article: “Dawn of the Dead: The Gospel of Matthew and the Zombie Apocalypse”.

[72] McKinsey, op. cit., p. 340.

[73] Fatoohi, op. cit., pp. 79-80.

[74] https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEcat5/SE0001-0100.html

Interestingly, eclipses also occurred on August 3, 631 and January 27, 632 CE (https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEcat5/SE0601-0700.html), around the time that Ibrahim, the infant son of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), passed away. According to an authentic ahadith, an eclipse occurred after Ibrahim’s death, and some people began to think that it was because of the death. However, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) immediately refuted this superstition:

“Narrated Al-Mughira bin Shu`ba: ‘The sun eclipsed in the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) on the day when (his son) Ibrahim died. So the people said that the sun had eclipsed because of the death of Ibrahim. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “The sun and the moon do not eclipse because of the death or life (i.e., birth) of someone. When you see the eclipse pray and invoke Allah’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1043).

[75] https://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/calendar/jesus.html

[76] https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/5MCSEmap/0001-0100/33-03-19.gif

[77] Mark 14:66-72; Matthew 27:69-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18.

[78] For a separate and more detailed discussion of the resurrection story, see my article: “Raymond Brown and the “Reality” of the Resurrection of Jesus: A Critical Analysis of a Christian Scholar’s Defense of Resurrection Theology”.

[79] Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (London: Penguin Books, 2003), p. 183.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Luke 23:45.

[82] Genesis 1:16. On an unrelated note, the claim that the moon was a “light” contradicts scientific fact since the moon does not produce light on its own (unlike the sun), but instead reflects sunlight, as noted in our article “Science in the Bible and the Quran: Searching the Holy Texts for Evidence of Scientific Knowledge”.

[83] Matthew 27:46.

[84] Matthew 27:46-50.

[85] Mark 15:34.

[86] John 20:1-14.

[87] John 20:27-27.

[88] See here for example: https://isjesusalive.com/are-the-accounts-of-jesuss-ascension-contradictory/.

The article states:

“Luke doesn’t say Jesus’ ascension took place on the same day as the resurrection. What Luke is doing is telescoping the events, which is a standard rhetorical method of the time. Telescoping is simply taking a longer storyline and putting it into a brief form without changing the facts. As philosopher Tim McGrew points out, other ancient historians have used this technique, including Sallust, Lucian, Cicero, and Quintillian.”

[89] For example, see the NIV: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+16&version=NIV

[90] Surah Al-Imran, 3:55. All translations of the Quran are taken from Dr. Mustafa Khattab (https://quran.com/).

[91] Surah An-Nisa, 4:157-158.

[92] Surah Az-Zukhruf, 43:61. Isa (peace be upon him) will be one of the major signs of the approach of the Day of Judgment, which means that he will descend near its time.

[93] Sahih al-Bukhari, 34:169; see also Sahih Muslim, 1:294.

[94] Fatoohi, op. cit., p. 99.

It should be noted that Fatoohi’s opinion that Jesus was taken by God to an unknown heavenly location where the former died has no basis in either the Quran or the authentic ahadith. For more on his theory, see pages 133-134 of his book.

[95] As the analysis of the Biblical story has shown above, there is nothing but conjecture and confusion regarding the events of that fateful day. Hence, the Quran makes an accurate statement.

[96] Fatoohi, op. cit., p. 107.

[97] https://quran.com/4?startingVerse=157

[98] For example, the so-called “Testimonium Flavianum”. For a good explanation of why this passage should be rejected, see the following: http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/11/why-josephus-so-called-testimonium.html.

[99] Fatoohi, op. cit., pp. 109-110.

One obscure source known as the Gospel of Basilides was cited by Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 202 CE) as claiming that it was Simon of Cyrene (the man who supposedly helped Jesus carry the cross as mentioned in the gospels) who was crucified:

“Wherefore he did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them” (https://www.earlychristianwritings.com/basilides.html).

2 thoughts on “The Crucifixion in the Bible and the Quran: A Critical Examination (updated)

  1. Pingback: Jesus, Pilate, and Barabbas…it just doesn’t make sense! – The Quran and Bible Blog

  2. Pingback: Islam, Jack Chick and the Battle for Souls – “Allah Had No Son” (updated) – The Quran and Bible Blog

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