The Qur’an states the following:

“Waqawlihim inna qatalna al Massih Issa ibn Maryam rasul Allah, wama qataluhu wama salabuhu walaken shubbiha lahum”, Q. 4: 158,

trans. and their saying, we did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah; whereas they slew him not nor crucified him, but he was made to appear to them like the one crucified (M. Sher Ali). A. Yusuf Ali writes the following explanation:

‘The end of the life of Jesus on earth is as much involved in mystery as his birth, and indeed the greater part of his private life, except the three main years of his ministry. It is not profitable to discuss the many doubts and conjectures among the early Christian sects and among Muslim theologians. The Orthodox Christian Churches make it a cardinal point of their doctrine that his life was taken on the Cross, that he died and was buried, that on the third day he rose in the body with his wounds intact, and walked about and conversed, and ate with his disciples, and was afterwards taken up bodily to heaven. This is necessary for the theological doctrine of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement for sins, which is rejected by Islam. But some of the early Christian sects did not believe that Christ was killed on the Cross. The Basilidans believed that someone else was substituted for him. The Docetae held that Christ never had a real physical or natural body, but only an apparent or phantom body, and that his Crucifixion was only apparent, not real. The Marcionite Gospel ( about A.D. 138) denied that Jesus was born, and merely said that he appeared in human form. The Gospel of St. Barnabas supported the theory of substitution on the Cross. The Qur’anic teaching is that Christ was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, notwithstanding certain apparent circumstances which produced that illusion in the minds of some of his enemies; that disputations, doubts, and conjectures on such matters are vain; and that he was taken up to God.’

Crucifixion was attested first among the Persians. The Greeks and the Carthaginians, from whom the Romans adapted the practice, later employed it. In the Old Testament, the corpses of blasphemers or idolaters punished by stoning might be hanged as further humiliation (Deut. 21: 23).

Crucifixion was introduced in Palestine during the Hellenistic time. Josephus tells us that the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes crucified those Jews who refused Hellenization. Constantine abolished the practice in deference to Christian belief concerning Jesus’death. Jesus crucifixion is recounted in Matt. 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19, and many times referred to elsewhere in the New Testament. The influence of early Christian literature on this subject and others is spread all over the Qur’an. Ali&’s commentary is just one example of that influence. After all, the penalty was a form of capital punishment, which involved public shame to the person. The condemned had to be stripped of all his clothing, he was physically tortured, he was made to carry his cross along the public roads and to the execution ground; then he was affixed to the cross, and was the object of taunts and indignities from passers-by. Death by crucifixion brought the condemned into a public disrepute.

Crucifixion provided an obstacle in the subsequent effort to convert Jews to the new faith. The Jews were not prepared to accept the thought that the Messiah should be crucified. To many of them, such a thought was considered a blasphemy. That was probably the thought of the Qur’an too.

The Qur’anic conjugation “w” is similar to Aramaic “w” means ‘so, then, and’; Akkadian “u”. The Qur’anic word “wama” has been interpreted erroneously as ‘did not’. Syriac “wmo, wma” is an interrogative pronoun ‘what?’ “wmo li wlock” or “wma li wlak” means ‘and what have I to do with you’. The Qur’an is saying: ‘and what they slew, and what they crucified’. In other words, the Qur’an confirms the death and crucifixion of Jesus, but the Aramaic language of the verse was misinterpreted by Muslim commentators.

For more on this and other subjects, please refer to my book, The Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an.

Gabriel Sawma

Copyright 2006, Gabriel Sawma. ALLRIGHTS RESERVED

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