Difficulties, Contradictions and Problems in the Crucifixion tale (part 3)

Contention 6: Jesus was a very righteous man and a great prophet so it would have been in God’s interest to save him especially if he had asked.

Jesus prayed earnestly to God to save him!

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.“(Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42)

Jesus was asking to be removed from being harmed by his enemies. Make no mistake about it! Even Christian commentaries admit that the cup in the verse symbolises the impending hardships. The People’s New Testament commentary says, “This cup is the betrayal, the trial, the mocking, the scourging, the cross, and all besides which our thoughts cannot reach.”

Was Jesus’ prayer answered? If he was a righteous servant it should have been answered according to the Old Testament.

The following are verses and prophecies assuring Jesus’ safety:

If you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty, if you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and propser your rightful habitation.” (Job 8:5-6)

But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me.” (Psalms 55:16)

“..what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you do care for him?(Psalms 8:4)

Who is the son of man if not Jesus who is described as just that 83 times in the New Testament!

The Lord answer you in the day of trouble.” (Psalms 20:1)

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and deliver them out of all their troubles.”((Psalms 34:17)

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalms 34:19)

The Lord delivers him in the day of troubles.” (Psalms 41:1)

The lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land, you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.” (Psalms 41:2)

For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who condemn him to death.” (Psalms 109:31)

He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.” (Psalms 145:19)

Jesus himself taught that if a righteous person prayed the Father would answer in Matthew 6:6, Matthew 7:7-8 and  Matthew 18:19. Jesus said explicitly,

if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

God hears the worshipper as John 9:31.

Was Jesus’ prayer answered? Amazingly, the Bible says yes and in the book of Hebrews at that!

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death,  and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:7-8)

The above is clear indication that Jesus’ fervent prayer was answered. The following Bible commentary by Dr. Paul Ellingworth on Hebrews 5:7 explains the meaning of the verse in detail concluding with the Orthodox Christian position, but at the same time admits that the verse likely means Jesus was asking to be saved from death/being killed:

“σωζω here has the literal meaning of preservation or rescue from physical death (cf. Σωτηρία in 11:7), not the extended meaning of preservation from eternal death, as in 7:25. σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου may mean either “prevent him from being killed” (cf. Pr. 15:24; Jas. 5:20; 2 Clem. 16:4) or “rescue him by raising him out of death” (cf. Wis. 14:4; Jn. 12:27; absolutely, Lk. 8:50; more generally, of rescue from the threat of death, Ps. 107:20 [LXX 106:19]; Ho. 13:14; Sir. 51:12). If the reference is specifically to Gethsemane, the first alternative is more likely.”[14] (emphasis added)

Contention 7: The crucifixion is unjustified.

According to Christian apologists Jesus’ death was in accordance with Roman law which stipulated that rebels should be executed. Jesus according to the same apologists was a rebel since he called himself the King of the Jews thus usurping Roman authority. The following is an explanation concerning the Crucifixion method by Joel B. Green who is professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary:

“In the context of any discussion of the material aspects of crucifixion it is crucial to remember that Rome did not embrace crucifixion as its method of choice for execution on account of the excruciating pain it caused. The acts of the crucifixion resulted in little blood loss and death came slowly, as the body succumbed to shock. This form of capital punishment was savage and heinous, but for other reasons. Executed publicly, situated at a major crossroads or on a well-trafficked artery, devoid of clothing, left to be eaten by birds and beasts, victims of crucifixion were subject to optimal, unmitigated, vicious ridicule.

Rome did not expose its own citizens to this form of heinous punishment, but reserved crucifixion above all for those who resisted imperial rule.” [15]

Generally, modern scholars argue that Pilate’s active part in Jesus’ punishment was justified due to a political threat that he posed by claiming that he ‘s the King of the Jews. There is no explicit verse anywhere in the Bible where Jesus unequivocally claimed to be a king of anyone, let alone a king of an entire nation. Jesus was not the military messiah that the Jews were anticipating. He was the spiritual messiah that was generally passive in his mission. In the gospel records there is no indication that Jesus intended to usurp the Roman empire. He gave them no justified reason to have him executed as a rebel. In fact, when asked about the accusation thrown against him concerning his alleged worldly kingship he denied it.

“Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:33-38)

In the above passage we see Jesus clearly denying a worldly kingship and instead affirmed a spiritual one(Matthew 18:3, Mark 10:15 and Luke 18:17). As a result of this Jesus was found innocent by Pilate. His verdict was, “I FIND NO BASIS FOR A CHARGE AGAINST HIM.” The same verdict is found in Luke 23 repeated twice in the same passage(verses 14-22)!

In John 6:14-15 we are told that when Jesus thought that people wanted to make him King he withdrew into seclusion to the mountain.

The following passage is very telling,

“When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” (Matthew 17:24-27)

Jesus obeyed the regulations of Rome and taught his followers to pay taxes. In fact, we have the famous statement from Jesus,

Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.” (Mark 12:17)

How can such an obedient subject of the Roman empire be condemned to a rebel’s death? G. Vermes says, “contrary to the claim of some contemporary New Testament interpreters, the general context of the portrait of Jesus in the Synoptics and in the rest of the New Testament shows that he was not a pretender to the throne of David, or a would-be leader of a revolt against Rome.” [16]

Christian apologists may offer a counterargument by arguing that it did not really matter what Jesus himself personally believed or practiced, but what the Jews told Pilate. However, if Pilate had believed the Jews in that Jesus was a threat to Rome surely his followers would have been persecuted too. But nothing like that happened in the years that ensued. People were allowed to convert to Christianity and followed Jesus’ teachings as Bart D. Ehrman mentions in Misquoting Jesus. The earliest official Christian persecution by Rome was during Emperor Nero’s rule around 54 to 68 CE. However, this was not because of the charges levelled against Jesus by the Jewish leaders. The idea that a very powerful Roman prefect could be pressured into believing tall tales after he himself found the person innocent is fantastically absurd. As a matter of fact, John says that he did not fall for theaccusations and continued to affirm Jesus’ innocence, “Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.”(John 19:6) Were Roman prefects so callous and unjust? This is akin to a modern judge in a court of law declaring a person innocent, but sending him to the gallows regardless. Does that make sense? It is absolutely absurd!

As we have seen there is no sufficient or satisfactory reason for Jesus’ crucifixion, which must lead us to the conclusion that many of the tales surrounding his trials have been fabricated. What else have been fabricated?

Contention 8: The earliest Gospel has no passion narrative in it!

You might be saying that I’ve gone bonkers for claiming that the earliest Gospel has no passion narrative. You might think I’m talking about Mark which is considered by scholars to be the first of the four canonical Gospels to be written. No, I am not talking about Mark. Rather, I am talking about a Gospel that predates even the Gospel of Mark. I’m talking about the lost Gospel “Q”. To understand what the Gospel Q is one needs to understand some background concerning the first three Gospels. The first three Gospels are labelled as Synoptics which means “seen together” the reason of which is due to the fact that the passages and pericopes in the three bear numerous stark similarities. Biblical scholars considered this as the “Synoptic Problem”. The conclusion that they arrived at was that both Matthew and Luke relied heavily on a common source namely, the Gospel according to Mark. However, Mark cannot account for a considerable number of verses that are found in Matthew and Luke. These are verses that Matthew and Luke share in common, but are missing in Mark. To solve this issue German Biblical scholars postulated another source that Matthew and Luke relied upon which they have simply dubbed “Q” which is short for the German word Quelle meaning source. Though there are scholars who contest the existence of “Q”, the majority accept it as the most tenable explanation for the parallels found between Matthew and Luke that are not accounted for in Mark. Most scholars have dated the “Q” Gospel to approximately 50 CE predating the Canonical Gospels.[17]

By comparing Matthew and Luke closely the scholars have reconstructed this “Q” Gospel. What does it contain? A lot of things, but most importantly is that it has no passion or resurrection narrative at all. One of the foremost scholars on the “Q” Gospel notes, “.the Sayings Gospel has no passion narrative or resurrection stories.”[18]. Bart D. Ehrman also notes, “Most striking was the circumstance that in none of the Q materials (that is, in none of the passages found in Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark) is there an account of Jesus’ death and resurrection.” [19]

Gospel “Q” came about around the same time Paul was writing his letters and teaching the theology of the crucifixion and resurrection as essential to the Christian faith. If the crucifixion truly happened and indeed necessary for salvation and that Jesus definitely raised from the dead why is it not mentioned in this gospel that was made used by Matthew and Luke? We contend that the reason why it does not contain either passion or resurrection narrative is because neither really took place and are indeed unessential to the faith that Jesus brought.

Contention 9: Even if (for the sake of argument) Jesus was put on the cross he could not have died so fast!

The Roman method of crucifixion was not to cause instant or immediate death of the victim. Historically, the Roman method was to fix someone upon the cross either by tying or nailing and to allow him to die a shameful and above all a slow painful and agonising death. The Gospel narratives give conflicting timelines for Jesus’ crucifixion and time of expiration/death, but none exceed 6 hours. What exactly was the blow that caused his death if indeed he was put on the cross? In discuissing this issue Prof. Raymond E. Brown says clearly, “Crucifixion pierces no vital organ, and so inevitably one must wonder what physical or organic factor caused Jesus to die. The extremely brief Gospel descriptions of the death of Jesus are of little help in answering this question.” [19] Christian apologists are fond of citing medical professionals who have delved into this matter to argue for the impossibility of surviving the cross and affirm Jesus’ death on it. Regarding this Raymond E. Brown says, “In my judgment the major defect of most of the studies I have reported on thus far is that they were written by doctors who did not stick to their trade and let a literalist understanding of the Gospel accounts influence their judgments on the physical cause of death of Jesus. There is no evidence that the evangelists personally knew anything about that matter.” [20]

The conclusion:

The crucifixion of Jesus is a tale that is indeed fascinating and quite fitting for a bedtime story and can be safely placed in the fiction section in any library or bookstore. We are satisfied with concluding that the cumulative 9 contentions proposed in this critique soundly and sufficiently disprove the tale of Jesus’ crucifixion as historical fact and it should instead be called the CRUCIFICTION(coined by the late Ahmed Deedat). We submit that the Qur’an is absolutely right when it says,

“And their saying: “We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, messenger of God.” They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. ” (4:157).


[1] Howard Clark Kee, Eric M. Meyers, John Rogerson, Anthony J. Saldarini. The Cambridge Companion to the Bible(1997). Cambridge, U.K. : Cambridge University Press. pp. 447

[2] Obert C. Tanner, Lewis M. Rogers, Sterling M. McMurrin. Toward Understanding the New Testament(1990). Salt Lake City: Signature Books. pp. 30

[3] Ed Parish Sanders. The Historical Figure of Jesus(1995). England: Penguin Books. pp. 72

[4] Geza Vermes. The Changing Faces of Jesus(2000). London, England: Penguin Books. pp. 43

[5] Raymond E. Brown. The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 1(1994). New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. pp. 648

[6] Raymond E. Brown. An Introduction to the New Testament(1997). New York: Doubleday.

[7] Flavius Josephus. Jewish Antiquities(1998). Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[8] Raymond E. Brown. Op. Cit. (1997).

[9] Tacitus. Annals (1962). London: William Heinmann Ltd.

[10] G.A. Wells. The Historical Evidence for Jesus(1988). London, England: Prometheus Books. pp. 16-17

[11] Raymond E. Brown. Op. Cit. (1997). pp. 337

[12] Paul J. Achtemeier. HarperCollins’ Bible Dictionary(1996). HarperCollins. pp. 164

[13] Watson E. Mills. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible(1990). Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. pp. 128

[14] Paul Ellingworth. The Epistle to the Hebrews, A Commentary on the Greek Text (1993). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[14] Joel B. Green. Crucifixion, The Cambridge Companion to Jesus(2001). Cambridge University Press. pp. 91

[15] Geza Vermes. Op. Cit. pp. 181

[16] Bart D. Ehrman. Lost Christianities(2003). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 58

[17] http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=542

[18] Bart D. Ehrman. Op. Cit. pp. 57

[19] Raymond E. Brown. The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2(1997). Op. Cit. pp. 1088

[20] Ibid. pp. 1092

Recommended reading:

The Mystery of The Historical Jesus by Louay Fatoohi

The Mystery of the Crucifixion: The Attempt to Kill Jesus in the Qur’an, The New Testament, and Historical Sources by Louay Fatoohi

200+ ways the Qur’an Corrects the Bible by Mohamed Ghounem

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman

Jesus Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman

An Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond E. Brown

The Truth About the Crucifixion of Jesus by A.S. Abraham


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