When Christians show up to a lecture by everyone’s favorite fake debater Zakir Naik, they often ask him about Jesus’ crucifixion and Zakir gives a pretty silly response. He says for Muslims the qur’an is clear that Jesus wasn’t killed and wasn’t crucified and for Christians the bible is clear that Jesus was crucified but he survived crucifixion. And then he tries to show from the bible that Jesus survived crucifixion. Why do I say that Zakir Naik’s response is silly? Let me give you 10 reasons.
First, every respected new testament scholar and historical Jesus scholar on the planet, regardless of theological background, agrees that the Islamic view is wrong. Even non-christian scholars agree completely with Christians on this point. For instance, the atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann declares that “Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.” Marcus Borg of the notoriously liberal Jesus seminar states that “The most certain fact about the historical Jesus is his execution as a political rebel.” Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish scholar, concludes that “Jesus’ death by crucifixion is historically certain.” According to Paula Fredricksen, a convert to Judaism, who specializes in historical Jesus studies, “The single most solid fact about Jesus’ life is his death. He was executed by the Roman prefect Pilate on or around Passover, in the manner Rome reserved particularly for political insurrectionists, namely crucifixion.” And since so many Muslims are becoming fans of Bart Ehrman because they think Ehrman agrees with them on anything, I should note that Ehrman writes “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman Prefect of Judea Pontius Pilate.” As a general rule, when every expert in a field rejects your theory, probably time for a new theory. This means you, Zakir.
Second, all of our early sources declare that Jesus died by crucifixion, even the sources Zakir Naik quotes when he’s trying to deceive his listeners plainly declare that Jesus died. For instance, Mark 15:37 says that “Jesus breathed his last on the cross.” He obviously didn’t breathe his last if he went on living. Matthew 27:50 tells us that “Jesus yielded up his spirit.” Luke 23:46 reads “and Jesus crying out with a loud voice said ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit’. Having said this, he breathed his last.” John 19:30 says that “Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit”. All of the books that Zakir Naik quotes to show that Jesus didn’t die explicitly state that Jesus died. Fake experts like Zakir expose themselves as frauds when they tell their gullible followers that the bible says the exact opposite of what it actually says. Welcome to the amazing world of Islamic apologetics otherwise known as opposite world.
Third, while we’re on the topic of sources, it’s not just the New Testament that reports Jesus’ death by crucifixion, there are old testament prophecies about his death. In Isaiah 53, for instance, the prophet Isaiah tells us about someone who would die for our sins and rise from the dead.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
Isaiah spoke these words about seven centuries before Jesus walked the earth. Since Jesus is the only person in history who fits Isaiah’s description, people like Zakir Naik are guilty of rejecting the testimony of Old Testament prophets.
Fourth, Jesus predicted his own death in the same books that Zakir Naik quotes. In the gospels, Jesus repeatedly says that he’s going to die. Mark 9:31 says that Jesus was teaching his disciples and telling them “the son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him and when he has been killed, he will rise three days later.” Zakir Naik’s favorite book to quote when he defends his delusional view of Jesus’ crucifixion is the book of Matthew but in Matthew 17:22-23, Jesus declares “the son of man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him and he will be raised on the third day.” Somehow when fake debater Zakir Naik reads about Jesus saying that he’s going to be killed, he thinks Jesus is saying that he’s not going to be killed. I hope Zakir doesn’t live the rest of his life like this. I mean when he’s walking down the street and he gets to an intersection and the sign says don’t walk, does he think to himself “don’t walk”, it must mean “walk” and start walking across the intersection. That’s how he reads the gospels.
Fifth, also in Zakir Naik’s favorite book to quote when he’s claiming that Jesus never died, an angel at the empty tomb of Jesus says that Jesus has risen from the dead. In Matthew 28:5-7, an angel says to a group of women who had come to visit Jesus’ tomb “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here for he has risen just as he said. Come see the place where he was lying. Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.” Let me guess. When the angel says that Jesus has risen from the dead, he really means that Jesus never died because angels always say the opposite of what they mean, according to Zakir Naik’s method of scriptural interpretation?
Sixth, Jesus’ followers claimed that he had risen from the dead because he appeared to them after his crucifixion. But if Zakir Naik is right and Jesus actually survived Roman crucifixion, he would have been so horribly mangled and disfigured that no one would ever have concluded that he had risen from the dead. Jesus wouldn’t have been able to walk for months, his skin and his back muscles would have been torn to shreds, his wounds would have been badly infected. If Jesus had appeared to the apostles in that state, they would have been yelling for a doctor, not proclaiming his resurrection as the foundation of Christianity. Zakir once studied medicine so he should know this unless of course he read his med school textbooks the same way he reads the gospels, in which case I’m glad he’s not practicing medicine.
Seventh, the traditional Islamic theory here is that Allah rescued Jesus by disguising someone else and having this other person crucified. The only appealing feature of this theory is that Jesus was rescued from harm, he wasn’t crucified. The theory is flawed in every other conceivable way but at least Jesus wasn’t hurt. That’s something. But Zakir Naik’s theory doesn’t even have that going for it. According to Zakir, the Romans tortured Jesus and nailed him to a cross, and Allah allowed it for no reason. Christianity teaches that Jesus suffered and died but that there was a point to his suffering and death. What’s the point of Jesus enduring suffering and crucifixion? According to Zakir Naik, Allah rescues Jesus but only after people lashed him and nailed him to a cross. Seems like the divine rescue came a little too late.
Eighth, if Zakir’s view is correct, then everyone in the first century completely misinterpreted what happened. Jews Christians and Romans were all convinced that Jesus died on the cross and yet Allah did nothing to correct this view. Jesus did nothing to correct this view. By miraculously taking Jesus away after the crucifixion, Allah was leaving everyone in a state of error and ensuring that future generations would believe that Jesus died by crucifixion. Since Jesus’ death by crucifixion is foundational to christianity, Allah helped start Christianity by misleading people about Jesus’ death. No wonder Zakir feels so comfortable misleading people. He gets it from his God.
Ninth, think about how inconsistent Muslim apologists have to be in terms of methodology. Zakir goes to the New Testament to support his claims but then he ignores all the verses that refute his claims. So what’s his method when he reads the bible, cherry picks the verses that you can use, ignore the verses that contradict what you’re saying? Would he allow us to use this method with the Quran? Suppose someone quotes Surah 9:5 of the Quran “Slay the infidels wherever you find them.” What’s Zakir Naik going to say? “You have to look at the context of Surah 9, you have to look at the surrounding verses, you have to look at other verses in the Quran, you have to look at the historical situation.” I agree completely these are basic rules of interpreting a text but when Muslims go to the bible, they throw out the most basic rules of scriptural interpretation because they have an incoherent position that can only be defended with an inconsistent methodology. Islam’s top apologists are thoroughly inconsistent.
Tenth, even if we throw reason and logic and facts and scholarship out the window and believe all the ridiculous things Zakir Naik tells us, Islam still turns out to be false. The point of bringing up the crucifixion is to show that the Quran is wrong when it claims that Jesus wasn’t crucified. But even if we believe everything Zakir says about Jesus’ crucifixion, we still have to conclude that the Quran is wrong if Jesus was nailed to a cross but somehow survived. The Quran is wrong when it says that Jesus wasn’t crucified. Hence, Christians can listen to Zakir’s entire presentations and reply “Thank you Dr Naik for proving that Muhammad was a false prophet. Even after Zakir Naik goes against every respected historical Jesus scholar and New Testament scholar in the world, even after he goes against all of the first century sources that he quotes to defend his position, even after he goes against Old Testament prophecies about Jesus’ death, even after he goes against Jesus himself (since Jesus repeatedly told his followers that he was going to die by crucifixion), even after he goes against the angel who said that Jesus had died by crucifixion, even after he ignores the fact that if Jesus had somehow survived crucifixion the disciples never would have concluded anything about resurrection because he would have been badly in need of medical attention, even after he insists that Jesus suffered pointlessly, even after he portrays God as a cosmic trickster who misled people by miraculously sustaining Jesus and then taking him away knowing that everyone was convinced that he had died on the cross, even after he displays his utter inconsistency by using a method of interpreting the bible that he would never apply to the Quran, even after all of this, Islam still turns out to be false. No wonder Zakir has been running from Christian debaters his entire career. If this man ever steps on stage with an experienced Christian debater just once, it’s game over for him and for his gullible followers.