Did Jesus die on the cross? If He is a true prophet, He certainly did! A refutation of the ‘theistic swoon theory’

The prophetic claims made by Jesus of His crucifixion (death on the cross) and resurrection are attested to in all four Gospel narratives. Some Muslims dismiss these prophetic claims by appealing to the charge of textual corruption, or even go so far as to apply an eisegetical treatment of Jesus’ statements by introducing their own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. To dismiss Jesus’ prophetic claims on either of these points is to basically dismiss all the words of Jesus in the Gospels (Injeel), which according to the Qur’an, a Muslim cannot do as the following ayas state:

“And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him…Let the People of the Gospel judge by what God has revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God has revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. To you We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety…” Sura 5, 46-48 Yusuf Ali

It is He Who sent down to you (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind…). Sura 3, 3 Yusuf Ali

If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side…Say; “O People of the Book! You have no ground to stand upon unless you stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord.” Sura 5:66, 68 Yusuf Ali

And I will write down (my mercy) for those who are righteous and give alms and who believe in our signs; who follow the apostle, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in the Torah and the Gospel THAT IS WITH THEM. Sura 7, 156-157 Yusuf Ali

Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).” Sura 2, 136 Yusuf Ali

The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfilment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all. Sura 6, 115

…in the life of the present and in the Hereafter; no change can there be in the words of Allah. Sura 10, 64 Yusuf Ali

The above Quranic ayas affirm that the Torah and Gospel (Injeel) being referenced in the Qur’an, are the same Torah and Gospel that existed before the Qur’an, and therefore were available at the time of Mohammad. They (the above ayas/Qur’an) are speaking of the same Holy Bible that we have today! (Codex Sinaiticus-AD 350; Codex Vaticanus-AD 325-350.) Therefore, as commanded by the Qur’an, the Muslim must believe that Allah has preserved his word with no changes or corruption. “He (Allah) sent down the Torah and the Gospel before this as a guide to mankind…guarding it in safety.” Sura 3, 3; 5, 48

There are 37 quotations which testify to a true Torah and Gospel being available to the people of Mecca and Medina while Muhammad was alive.

New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce offers the following insight as to how the Gospels were considered and referred to in the 2nd century by the early Church fathers:

“At a very early date it appears that the four Gospels were united in one collection. They must have been brought together very soon after the writing of the Gospel according to John. This fourfold collection was known originally as `The Gospel’ singular, not `The Gospels’ in the plural; there was only one Gospel, narrated in four records, distinguished as `according to Matthew’, `according to Mark’, and so on. About A.D. 115 Ignatius, bishop, of Antioch, refers to `The Gospel’ as an authoritative writing, and as he knew more than one of the four `Gospels’ it may well be that by `The Gospel’ sans phrase he means the fourfold collection which went by that name.”[1]

Jesus Foretells of His Death and Resurrection

[Before reading the following scriptures, it must be noted that every time the word ‘kill(ed)’ or ‘die’ or ‘slain/slew’ is found in the Gospels (Injeel), it is a direct translation from the Greek word, apokteino—which means:

To kill in any way whatever
To destroy, to allow to perish
To inflict mortal death— In the New Testament apokteino is used: Kill (55x), slay/slew (14x), put to death (6x)

There is therefore no ambiguity as to what the New Testament writers mean when they use the word, apokteino—definition: to kill, to destroy, to perish, to inflict mortal death.

Jesus speaking to disciples about his deathMark 8:31—And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. [32] And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. [33] But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Mark 9:31—…for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”Mark 10:33, 34—Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: [34] And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Matthew 16:21—From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Matthew 17:22, 23—And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: [23] And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

Luke 9:22— Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.

Luke 18:31, 32—Jesus took the twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles, they will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.

John 12:30-32—This voice was for your benefit, not mine…But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”. He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Claims by Ahmadiyya Muslims that Jesus was ‘speaking metaphorically of His death’ and that He was referring only to His suffering, extreme physical hardship, or near death experience, (so as to justify their support of the ‘theistic swoon theory’) are by definition completely unfounded and should therefore be dismissed. Such claims lack an exegetical and/or hermeneutical treatment of the text, and instead use an eisegetical approach of interpreting the text or portion of the text in such a way that the process introduces the Ahmadiyya’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text, which are based upon the writings of their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who denies that Jesus died on the cross. (For more on the historicity of the crucifixion, please see my page on the topic, here.)

In regards to the above scriptural evidence, Muslims who support the ‘theistic swoon theory’ (or that of the substitution hypothesis) have a choice to make—either Jesus was a true prophet, or He was a false prophet. Now we know that a true prophet, which the Qur’an states that Jesus was, cannot lie. If one holds to the position that Jesus only ‘swooned’ (or was substituted) and did not die on the cross (and was therefore subsequently resurrected) as He clearly stated, then they have no other choice but to declare Jesus (Isa) a liar and false prophet. However, if one holds to the words and/or prophecies of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel regarding His death and resurrection, then they can confidently declare Him to be a true prophet and that His death and resurrection did indeed happen as He said they would. Even the Jesus (Isa) of the Qur’an said, “And peace be on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised alive.” Sura 19, 33

Fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecies

All three on crossLuke 23:46-53—[46] Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last…[50] Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, [51] who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. [52] This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. [53] Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid.

Matthew 27:46-50—[46] And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…[50] And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

Mark 15:33-39—[33] And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. [34] And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…[37] And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last…[39] And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

John 19:30-38—[30] …he (Jesus) said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. [31] Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. [32] So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. [33] But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. [34] But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. [35] He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe…

If Jesus is a true prophet, which the Qur’an says that he is, and if the Gospel (Injeel) is true, which the Qur’an says it is (being the same Gospel at the time of Muhammad as we have today), then Jesus did die on the cross and was resurrected three days later. This brings us to the inherent contradiction within the Qur’an on this point: If Jesus and the Gospels are right, then Mohammad and the Qur’an are wrong. However, if Jesus and the Gospels are wrong, then Mohammad and the Qur’an are still wrong because they say that Jesus and the Gospels are right. (For further insight into this inherent contradiction see the video at the end of this post-The Qur’an, the Bible, and the Islamic Dilemma) Only the eyewitness accounts as recorded in the Gospels, give us a non-contradictory and coherent rendering of Jesus’ life, the fulfillment of His prophetic claims of His death and resurrection, as well as His ascension.

No reputable historian denies the fact of Jesus’ death by Roman crucifixion under Pontius Pilate—not even the most liberal scholars (ie Jesus Seminar) dispute this fact. John Dominic Crossan, co-founder of The Jesus Seminar, states, “Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For if no follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixion we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus.”[2]

Jesus’ death by crucifixion is affirmed for principally two reasons:

(1) Jesus’ crucifixion and death is abundantly attested in multiple, early, independent sources; and
(2) had Jesus not died via crucifixion, it is unfathomable that the early Christian movement would have invented a story about his end so repelling to those they sought to win, both Jews and Gentiles alike. Similarly, only a small minority of scholars (mainly, those who see where the historicity of Jesus’ burial is leading!) deny the fact of Jesus’ burial in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court that condemned Jesus.

The evidence for the historicity of Jesus’ death by crucifixion is so powerful that one of the world’s leading Jewish theologians, the late Pinchas Lapide, who taught at Hebrew University in Israel, declared himself convinced on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead! Oxford professor, Thomas Arnold stated,

“I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”[3]

[1] F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove Ill. 1992, p. 23
[2] John Dominic Crossan, Co-founder of The Jesus Seminar, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, pg 145
[3] Thomas Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed., London: T. Fellowes, 1859, pp. 15-16

See also:
The Death of Jesus & the Defeat of Islam-by Michael Licona, here–highly recommended
The Question: Why Was Jesus Crucified?, here

Did Jesus actually die on the cross?-Gary Habermas, John Ankerberg Show

Was Jesus raised from the dead? Did he really die, or only pass out?-N.T. Wright, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig & others

The Qur’an, the Bible, and the Islamic Dilemma

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