Here is another great article by Qa'im bin Mohammad
«وَقُلْ جَاء الْحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ الْبَاطِلُ إِنَّ الْبَاطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقًا»
And say: Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished away. Lo! falsehood is ever bound to vanish. (17:81)
This is my third instalment in the series regarding the trials, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus (as). I would highly recommend you first check out my analysis of Jesus' (as) trial at the Sanhedrin, in the Christianity section of this blog, Reviving al-Islam, where I conclude that the alleged trial of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin violates 22 Sanhedrin laws, and was therefore historically improbable. Then, in Part II, (found here: http://www.shiachat.com/forum/index.php?/topic/234974347-pontious-pilate-and-jesus-a/ ) I analyzed Jesus' trial in front of Pontious Pilate, and point out some strange inconsistencies and coincidences. I will focus on the crucifixion in this thread, and then insha'Allah Part IV will be concerning the resurrection.
Introduction of the Crucifixion
The crucifixion and atonement is a central doctrine in Christian theology. Through the alleged crucifixion of our Messiah (as), Christians believe in the atonement of sin. In Christian theology the atonement refers to the forgiving or pardoning of sin through the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion, which made possible the reconciliation between God and creation. Some believe the sacrifice of Jesus pays for all past and future sins, while others believe that it pardons the original sin of Adam, carried by all humans.
I will mainly be analyzing the crucifixion as an event, rather than a theology, through the four Gospels and analyze their historicity.
The Gospels and the Crucifixion side by side
Exhibit A: Carrying the Cross
This point will look at the four Gospels in parallel, concerning the event of Jesus allegedly carrying the cross to the place of crucifixion.
Mark 15:21 : Simon of Cyrene carries the cross after Jesus fails to do so.
Matthew 27:32 : Simon of Cyrene carries the cross after Jesus fails to do so.
Luke 23:26 : Simon of Cyrene carries the cross after Jesus fails to do so.
John : No mention of Simon of Cyrene. Carries the cross the entire way.
(Note: I put "Mark" before "Matthew" because most Biblical scholars will agree that it is older)
It would make sense for John to differ on this subject, as he was writing in a period where Christian theology was being developed (circa 90-120 CE) and may have wanted to emphasize the idea of the "suffering servant" more than his predecessors. John was more 'dogmatic' than his predecessors, emphasizing the teachings about Jesus (as) (the Word is God, I AM, I and the Father are one, the Comforter, and more). To say that Simon carried the cross would be directing the focus away from Jesus in the holiest day of Christian theology.
Exhibit B: What was written on the Cross?
Mark 15:26 : The King of the Jews
Matthew 27:37 : This is Jesus the King of the Jews
Luke 23:38 : This is the King of the Jews
John 19:19 : Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews
Most Christians assert that these Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, divinely inspired to write their accounts. However, to differ on something as simple as what was written on the cross would alone question their authenticity and question other details that the Gospel writers could have gotten wrong.
Exhibit C: Thieves
Historically, the Romans did not crucify thieves, despite some Gospel accounts that say Jesus was crucified with thieves. They would usually crucify their political enemies rather than common criminals.
Matthew 27:44: The two thieves taunt Jesus
Luke 23:39-42: One thief taunts Jesus and is criticized by the other. Jesus promises the 2nd thief that they would be in Paradise together that day, though John and Acts say he did not ascend to heaven until 40 days after his resurrection
Exhibit D: Witnesses of the Crucifixion
The witnesses of the crucifixion story play a key role in the story. We know that none of Jesus' apostles (ra) actually witnesses the crucifixion, according to the Gospels:
"And they all forsook him, and fled." (Mark 14:50)
So none of Jesus' inner circle saw this event. Who was there?
Mark: Mark 15:40-41 says that many women watched from a distance and specifically mentions "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome."
Matthew: The only reference to followers of Jesus is found in Matthew 27:55-56, which says that many women were "watching from a distance", and specifically names "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons." (Biblical scholars will assert that Salome and "the mother of Zebedee's sons" is the same person to prevent this contradiction; for argument's sake I will give that to them).
Luke: Witnesses from a distance but no names are given.
John: Here we see a grand difference with the synoptic Gospels, once again. John 19:25 says that the witnesses were Maryam (as), Jesus' aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. The inclusion of Maryam was possibly a literary device - considering none of the inner circle saw the crucifixion, John may have seen it necessary to include a close figure to the witnesses of Jesus' alleged crucifixion, to remove any doubt from the story. What's also interesting is that while the synoptic books claimed the witnesses stood at a distance, while John says that they were standing right by the cross, talking to Jesus. Again, this may have been inserted to remove doubt from the crucifixion story.
Christians will try to solve this problem by saying that the witnesses were far, and then moved up closer. This, however, is not what the Gospels say. This is an effort to reconcile with the contradictions - the Gospels were not compiled together into a set until the 2nd century, and were not written with the intention of being compiled together. Each Gospel is a standalone text, with their own authors and goals, and their fusion was not foreseen by their authors - they were not created to complement each other.
Exhibit E: Hour of Crucifixion
Mark 15:25 : Jesus was crucified on the third hour.
Matthew : Hour not specified; but sixth hour passes during the crucifixion.
Luke : Hour not specified; but sixth hour passes during the crucifixion.
John 19:14-15 : Jesus was crucified on the sixth hour.
Exhibit F: Jesus' Last Words
Mark 15:34-37 : Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?
Matthew 27:46-50: Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?
Mark was most likely Greek, and Matthew was either a Greek or Hellenized Jew. Here, we see them disagreeing on this word: Eli or Eloi? They are both wrong - the Aramaic word is the same as the Arabic word, "Ilahi" meaning "my God". However, they both differ from the other Gospel accounts on Jesus' last words.
Luke 23:46: Jesus says: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
John 19:30 : Jesus says: “It is finished.”
Exhibit G: Spear Thrust
Mark : Nothing
Matthew : Nothing
Luke : Nothing
John 19:34 : A Roman soldier pierced Jesus' side with a spear to make sure that he was dead.
As analyzed in earlier exhibits, John has obviously been playing "clean-up" throughout the crucifixion event. Where there are doubts or loose ends in the earlier accounts, John has managed to add, change, omit, and clarify all throughout his Gospel. From the Gospels we know that Jesus (as) was allegedly on the cross only for a few hours. Historically, Josephus writes that crucifixions were known to last several days - some lasted up to a week - and not for a short amount of time. Thus, it would be natural that as the synoptic Gospels were being distributed, some readers would point out that Jesus could have simply fell unconscious, and rose out of his tomb wounded, as a few hours was simply not enough to kill a man. In fact, the Romans would break one's legs to quicken the crucifixion process to lasting a few days rather than longer, but the Gospels assert that Jesus' legs were not broken.
John however mentions a spear thrust to Jesus' side to remove such doubts and thus "solve" the problem.
Thus, we see that although these late-first and early-second century scriptures provide a detailed account of the crucifixion of Jesus (as), they differ and contradict each other on some very basic premises. This should not come as a surprise, as each individual Gospel had a different author, and were written in slightly different time periods. Just as the four accounts of the Sanhedrin trial had some fishy elements, the historicity of the crucifixion is questioned through the ambiguity and irrationality of the story.
The Qur'an withholds the position that Jesus (as) was in fact not crucified, but rather, God let the plans of those who opposed him fail.
May God guide us to the true teachings of the prophets (as), and hasten the long awaited returns of our Messiah and the twelfth Imam.