But now, of course, we know that such doubts once existed. James seems satisfied that when he had asked me if the New Testament writings had asserted that Jesus actually died on the cross I answered in the affirmative. He is working with only a partial recall, for my presentation and arguments throughout show that there were tell-tale signs that Jesus had not died on the cross despite this assertion.
Surely there are no “tell-tale signs” in the New Testament, nor are there any in history, for that matter. Though Shabir anachronistically inserts some great conflict into the early church from his Islamic background that simply did not exist at the time. Gnostic docetists would start denying the crucifixion due to theological concerns about an embodied savior, but for the vast majority of those living under Roman rule, the great question of the day was not “do the Romans often fail at executing folks by crucifixion?”
One of the ironies of debating Shabir’s unusual, minority Islamic opinion on this topic has to do with the fact that he grants the very thing that repulses the majority of Muslims: the crucifixion of Jesus. That is, most Muslims do not believe Allah would ever allow one of his prophets to be treated in such a manner. Yet, Ally does allow for this, though, somehow, he then places Jesus in the tiny, tiny minority, basically unknown to history, of people who not only survive a Roman crucifixion, but do so right under the eyes of the Romans themselves. Men who had killed many other men, experts in the subject, so to speak, looked at him and said, “He’s dead.” But somehow, Jesus was able to fool them all, survive, and miraculously extract himself from the tomb! Or…so it was made to appear to them? In essence, Shabir Ally claims we just don’t know the mechanics of what happened, as Surah 4:157 doesn’t tell us. But my question remains why any set of 40 Arabic words written without the slightest connection to the events in Jerusalem should carry the slightest weight for us in the first place.
I added further that the Jews, according to Matthew’s Gospel, felt deceived. In keeping with the requirements of their Sabbath observance, they had left the crucifixion scene on that Friday evening with the assurance that the legs of the crucified victims would be broken. But they must have found out by morning that the legs of Jesus were not broken. They hurried into Pilate’s court to request that the tomb of Jesus should be sealed up. They were apprehensive lest the disciples of Jesus should steal his body and then proclaim that he had risen from the dead. According to Matthew’s Gospel, they claimed that in case “the second deception would be worse than the first.” I asked what the first deception was, and suggested that they felt deceived in the first place because while they had the reasonable assurance that the legs of the victims would be broken, those of all the victims were broken except those of Jesus.
I must say that this is a most imaginative reading of the text. Let’s look at it:
Matthew 27:57-66 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. 62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver (evkei/noj o` pla,noj) said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 “Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception (pla,nh) will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.
I had never heard anyone suggest Shabir’s reading until the night of the debate, and the reason is fairly simple: the “first deception” was the idea that Jesus was the Messiah; the second would be that His own prophecy of His own resurrection would be fulfilled. “The first fraud was belief in the Messiahship of Jesus, the second belief in his resurrection” (A.T. Robertson). There is nothing in the text to even begin to substantiate insinuating into the Jews’ words anything other than a fear of grave robbery. The idea that they thought he was still alive in the grave is simply gratuitous! This is more Islamic anachronistic eisegesis, based upon a text six hundred years removed from the original context. The irony is that if you were to answer Shabir’s question by reference to the NT text, he would dismiss your answer. For example,
John 19:31-35 31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), 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 man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they 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 immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.
How does Shabir respond to this? He follows the line of the liberal mind-reading critic who discerns that this is a “later addition.” And how do scholars know this? They start with a theoretical reconstruction of what they think Jesus must have been like, and, using that as a filter, dismiss everything that disagrees. Simple! And once again, when Shabir encounters this kind of argumentation used in reference to the Qur’an, he dismisses it out of hand. The use of two differing standards is telling indeed.