Resurrection; Hoax or History (McGill University Debate, 2009)

William Lane Craig debates Shabir Ally on the topic: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? at McGill University, Quebec, Canada, February 2009.

William Lane Craig’s review of the debate could be found at;
http://theresurrectiondebate.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/an-evaluation-of-the-resurrection-debate-by-william-lane-craig/

Shabir Ally’s review of the debate could be found at;
https://shabirally.wordpress.com/2009/04/12/did-jesus-physically-rise-from-the-dead/

Did Jesus Physically Rise from the Dead?

 

An Evaluation of the Craig/Ally Debate:

by Shabir Ally

April 7, 2009

 

Subsequent to my last debate with Dr. Craig on February 11, 2009 at McGill University in Montreal, I was surprised to learn of Dr. Craig’s boast that he won the debate. My surprise is twofold. First, it adds nothing to our knowledge when a debater claims personal victory, for this is to be expected. Hence the claim is superfluous. But it is more surprising that Dr. Craig claimed victory in the light of what transpired. Final judgment on this belongs to independent reviewers of the debate, for Dr. Craig and I each can hardly be expected to see the debate from a vantage point of complete detachment. However, as Dr. Craig has already stated his view on the outcome, I hope to balance the picture he has presented not with a further superfluous claim, but with some analysis of the major points we discussed.

It is important in evaluating debates that we bear in mind our objectives in debating. If the purpose of debating is to win, this could become a barrier to the establishment of truth. But if the objective is to bring out new research and to see how well such research can hold up in the face of criticism then we may comb the debate for information and arguments and see which ideas presented were either proven or refuted. We may also identify areas that require more research, thus providing some stimulus for students looking for new theses on which to work. In short, it is my hope that we will be able to transcend the win-lose mentality that could prevail in such encounters and seek win-win solutions instead. The topic of our debate is an ancient one: Did Jesus Physically Rise from the Dead? It has been debated for centuries. It is time to step back and ask not who won the debate but what new knowledge came to light in the debate, and how such knowledge might foster better relations and understanding between the two sides.

Dr. Craig’s proof for the resurrection depends on five points all of which are essential to his case. Hence a disproof of any one such point is fatal to this case.

Take, for example the first point, his claim that Jesus died by crucifixion. His proof for this is that historians agree on it. But my specific response is that the historians who agree on this agree that his death is complete and final. Every homicide detective and historian knows that a person must be presumed to have died only after he was last seen alive. If we tell these very historians that Jesus was seen alive after the event of his death they would either disregard our claim that Jesus was seen alive again, or they would conclude that Jesus was not really dead in the first place. Dr. Craig could not otherwise prove that Jesus died on the cross. On the other hand, he himself cited the historian Josephus who wrote that on his return from Tekoa he found three of his friends hanging alive on crosses. He used his influence to have them removed and given medical attention. Two of them died anyway, but one survived. Now Jesus was by all counts on the cross no more than a few hours. How did he die so soon? It is interesting that Dr. Craig cited the Josephus story as evidence of the effectiveness of crucifixion in causing death, for the two men died anyway, even after receiving medical treatment. But he seems to have ignored the other logical implications of the story. The story supports the view that crucifixion takes days to kill its victim. Moreover, one man in the story managed to live on after having been removed from the cross and treated. Since we are looking for proof that Jesus definitely died, this story clearly counts against Dr. Craig’s proposition. Crucifixion for a short while is not a guaranteed method of execution.

The spear thrust, recorded only in John’s Gospel, could have killed Jesus if this wound was fatal, and if it was historical. But most biblical scholars believe that this was not a historical incident. We went back and forth on this point, but my demand for Dr. Craig to say that he himself believes that this was a historical incident was met only with his statement that this is a plausible description of what happened. I did not deny that this could have happened in some crucifixions. What I wanted to know is: “Did Jesus himself receive such a spear thrust?” In the end, the spear thrust is taken by scholars to be an apologetic addition on the part of John for his own theological purposes, and not a historical incident. If Dr. Craig wanted to assert its factuality not only generally, but specifically in the case of Jesus, he would have to have recourse to the doctrine of the inspiration of the gospels. But, as he had already pledged from the start to not invoke that doctrine I do not see on what basis he could think that Jesus was speared in the side. Hence we were left with no reason to believe that Jesus was really dead when taken down from the cross, as crucifixion pierces no vital organ. Usually a person hangs for days and eventually dies from exhaustion and shock. But Jesus was not on the cross for more than a few hours.

Dr. Craig tried to argue that the Romans were expert executioners. But even so, at the time mistakes were made, as they are made to this day. A case in point was given from Acts 14 of the Bible where Paul was stoned and left for dead. But when his executioners left, he got up and walked away. These were of course not Roman executioners, but the story nevertheless points to the inadequacy of post-mortem examinations at the time. I also cited the Roman historian Pliny the Younger who complained of the human situation being as it is that often we fail to know if a person is really dead.  One may add the Gospel description of the Roman centurion having expressed his conviction in the innocence of Jesus. This would indicate that the centurion had no reason to complete the act of killing Jesus.

In addition to the question about the death of Jesus, I also mounted serious objections to Dr. Craig’s fourth and fifth points. The fourth was the claim that Jesus appeared to his disciples in such a manner as to confirm the physical reality of the appearances. Fifth was the belief of the disciples in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead despite their having every predisposition against such a belief; and that this belief was essential for reversing their recent belief that the crucifixion proved Jesus to be a false messiah. As for the fourth point, I am willing to grant that God showed the disciples a vision of Jesus to satisfy them that Jesus was alive with God. But this is a far cry from the description in the gospels. Dr. Craig cited Michael Grant and Gerd Ludemann in favour of his view. But neither of these scholars holds that the appearance to the disciples was anything more than the subjective belief of the disciples. Grant holds that Jesus left such an impression on his disciples during his lifetime that after his death they began to think they were seeing him. And Ludemann expressly speaks of the hallucination of the disciples. Moreover, according to Raymond Brown, the incident in John’s Gospel where Jesus appeals to Thomas to touch him is a literary creation by John, again for apologetic purposes.

As for Dr. Craig’s fifth point, I have argued that there was no need for the resurrection of Jesus as the big bang that brought Christianity into existence as he asserts. Belief in Jesus began with his special birth and continued in the light of his miraculous deeds and authoritative words. But Dr. Craig will have us believe that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead there would be no belief in him. He argues that all faith in Jesus died with Jesus, and that only with his resurrection was faith in him again possible. Why? Because, as explained by Paul in the Bible (Galatians 3:13), Jesus died an accursed death according to God’s law.

But there are two fatal flaws in his position. In order for us to believe that all faith in Jesus was killed with his own death on the cross we would have to believe that all the miracles of Jesus in the New Testament and the belief of the multitudes in him were unhistorical. Why would everyone ignore all the miraculous works of Jesus and stop believing in him just because some men plotted and killed him without justification? If faith in Jesus could be so completely lost because of his death then it is hard to see how the Gospel depiction of his miraculous life could be true. For such a life would engender such strong faith in Jesus that it could hardly be completely crushed by the crucifixion.  The conundrum is as follows: If Dr. Craig’s fifth point is true then the gospels would have to be substantially false; and if the gospels are substantially false then most of Dr. Craig’s points are without foundation.

Thus it makes no sense to say that the disciples would have stopped believing in him at the moment of his death. Dr. Craig’s response is to say that the disciples would have now come to believe that, in the light of his death, Jesus must be a false claimant to messiahship. But I have shown, with reference to the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 1323, that the Dead Sea Scrolls attest to three expectations of a messiah at the time of Jesus: a priestly messiah, a prophet messiah, and a Davidic messiah. Only the Davidic messiah could not be defeated by his enemies. But, according to Raymond Brown, there is no evidence that Jesus claimed to be the Davidic messiah. Dr. Craig responds by saying that Jesus did claim to be the Davidic Messiah. How? By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey! But this is hardly convincing.

Therefore there would be no theological problem if Jesus was killed by his enemies. His death would not disprove his messiahship. Jesus could still be a priestly messiah or a prophet messiah. The problem appears only due to the fact that the gospels tried to present Jesus as being all three messiahs simultaneously and hence also the Davidic Messiah. Therefore his death makes him appear to be a false claimant to the title of Davidic Messiah. But since he did not in fact make that claim for himself, there was no reason for the disciples to disbelieve in him in the light of his death. Actually, the gospels indicate that even after the death of Jesus, and before his appearance to his disciples to confirm his resurrection, they still believed in him as a great prophet.

The second fatal flaw in Dr. Craig’s argument for his fifth point is in the logic of his argument. He argues that the resurrection of Jesus is not a natural event, but a supernatural one. It does not work to say that Jesus rose from the dead. One can only say that God raised Jesus from the dead. For this to happen, we have to have, of course, God’s willing participation. But does not Dr. Craig himself argue in agreement with Paul that Jesus died the death of a person who is under God’s curse? Then why, I ask, would God raise back to life, and thus vindicate, a person whom he cursed in the first place? The argument is circular. For us to know that God vindicated Jesus we have to know that God raised him back to life. And for us to know that God raised Jesus to life we have to know that God would vindicate him. This is assuming the very thing we set out to prove. But on the premise that God put his curse on Jesus we have no reason to believe that God would want to vindicate him. And hence we have no reason to believe that God would raise Jesus from the dead. Therefore we are left without a proof for the resurrection, as Dr. Craig had no reasonable answer to these objections.

What about the Quranic depiction of the crucifixion event? Dr. Craig argued that one of the most egregious errors in the Qur’an is its denial of the crucifixion of Jesus in 4:157. In response, I argued that the Qur’an cannot be proven incorrect on this score, for there are plausible interpretations of that Quranic verse. For example, though I do not consider this the best interpretation, it is plausible to suggest that since crucifixion was a Roman form of execution it was not the Jews who crucified him. Since the Qur’an is only denying that the Jews crucified Jesus it cannot be said to be wrong on this interpretation. In his response, Dr. Craig cited Kenneth Cragg to say that the interpretation is without basis, as the Romans are not the subject of the verse. It would have been better for Dr. Craig to maintain silence on this point, as he seems to have not thought this through well enough. My point is not that the Romans are the subject of the verse. I agree: they are not. The Jews are the subject. And the Qur’an denies that they, the Jews, crucified Jesus. On this interpretation the Quranic statement is literally and patently true.

Yet that is not my preferred interpretation of the verse. It was offered only to show that the Quranic statement cannot be held to be erroneous when it can have a plausible interpretation. On the other hand, I offered another plausible interpretation of the verse, one that takes into consideration the multiple uses of the term for crucifixion in the Qur’an to apply a consistent meaning to that term.  In the Qur’an wherever the term salb occurs it always means ‘to kill by means of crucifixion’. In Quran 5:33 the term is juxtaposed with qatl (to kill). There the punishment for the muharibun is that they should be killed (qatl) or crucified (salb). It is generally held that the qadi (judge) will have a choice to enact one of the punishments mentioned in that verse, including killing and crucifying. But if a man is crucified then he is in fact killed. So what is meant by the choice between killing and crucifying? Obviously, it means either to kill by some usual means or to kill by the unusual means of crucifixion.

With this in mind, think about the Quranic statement “They killed him not; nor crucified him” (4:157). The same two words are juxtaposed. I believe we should consistently apply the meanings of qatl (to kill by ordinary means) and salb (to kill by the extraordinary means of crucifixion), in both verses: Qur’an 5:33, as seen above, and here also in the present verse (Qur’an 4:157). When we do that we discover that the present verse means, “They did not kill him by ordinary means, and they did not kill him by the extraordinary means of crucifixion.”

In general, salb can have two meanings:

1. Hanging a person on a cross; or

2. Hanging a person on a cross so that he dies thereby.

The classical commentators on the Qur’an wanted both meanings to apply. Hence they held that Jesus was not even put on the cross. But here we have reason to see that the second meaning is the one the Qur’an has in view. When the Jewish opponents of Jesus boasted that they killed Jesus it is obvious enough what they meant. It is their boast that they killed Jesus that is being refuted in the verse. In response to the first Quranic statement about this, “They killed him not,” readers may respond in their own minds, “But they did! They crucified him!” The Quranic response to this is, “No, they did not do that either.”

Now which of the two meanings would the reader have in mind in saying, “But they did crucify him!”? Obviously the second meaning: ‘To hang a person on a cross such that he dies thereby.’ And this is what the Qur’an is denying. On this interpretation, the Qur’an is merely saying that Jesus did not die on the cross. It is not denying that Jesus was put on the cross.

Dr. Craig could not refute the specific position I have explained, but could only ridicule it as being unislamic. But ridicule is not the same as refutation, nor is it a suitable substitute. Moreover, Dr. Craig can only mean that I did not defend the traditional view that someone else was made to look like Jesus and put on the cross instead. My view, I believe, is more true to the Qur’an, and hence more Islamic than the view that a substitute was killed after having been mistaken for Jesus. As I have explained, while it is necessary for Muslims to believe in every verse of the Qur’an, it is not necessary for them to believe in every interpretation of every verse.

Against this interpretation, Dr. Craig appeared to stand up for the classical Islamic interpretation. But he had no way of showing why that was a correct interpretation. He thought that my interpretation was based only on the concluding line of the said verse. But in fact it is based on the flow of the entire verse: its beginning, middle, and end. Moreover, my interpretation connects this verse with others which employ the word for crucifixion to show that it means to kill by that unusual means. Dr. Craig even read the verse 5:33 while failing to notice that his reading of the verse actually confirms the point I was making.

Of course Dr. Craig has no interest in knowing or defending the actual meaning of the Qur’an. His interest is in winning the debate. To accomplish this end, he encourages me to hold to the traditional interpretation against which he has his arguments ready. This is a strange case in which one debater tells the other debater to adopt the view which would be easier to refute. To the classical Muslim view that a substitute was crucified instead of Jesus, the classical Christian objection is that this involves a theological problem, as it has God deceiving everyone, even Jesus’ disciples. Even though I did not advance that view, Dr. Craig nevertheless pronounced the classical Christian response. I believe that even the classical Muslim view can overcome this theological objection. But I will leave that alone here, as it is irrelevant to my own arguments in the debate. The objection does not apply to my position, as I do not hold that God deceived the disciples of Jesus. Nor do I hold that God actively deceived anyone, as the scenario I describe has everyone acting in a normal manner but, being humans, they overlook certain fine details which, when added up amount to Jesus’ surviving the cross. Those who connived to kill Jesus deceived themselves in their assumption that Jesus was dead.

Now what could be a plausible scenario that fits Dr. Craig’s other two facts which I did not bother to refute, and yet be faithful to the Qur’an? I cited the work of Daniel Smith, The Post-Mortem Vindication of Jesus in the Sayings Gospel Q, to argue that there was an early Christian concept according to which Jesus was assumed into heaven from his tomb. According to Smith, this view is supported by the pre-Marcan passion narrative, a source which Mark used in the composition of his own Gospel. That source lacked what Mark has now supplied as Mark 16:7 to show that the angels informed the women that Jesus would appear to his disciples in Jerusalem. Without such a promised appearance, we have a scenario in which Jesus is taken up into heaven without first meeting his disciples in Galilee or anywhere else. This then mirrors the story of other prophets who are said to have been taken up into heaven, some dead, some alive: Enoch, Moses, Elijah, and Isaiah. Likewise, Reginald Fuller, in his book The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives expressed the view that the pre-Marcan source indicated that Jesus was assumed into heaven from his tomb.

But whereas Smith insists that Jesus was taken up dead in the manner of Moses and Isaiah, his study also highlights the fact that the Q Gospel which served as a source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke do not speak of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The German scholar Deiter Zeller argues on the basis of the Q Gospel, that the early belief entailed the assumption of Jesus alive, as was the case with Enoch and Elijah. This position, I argued, seems to be what the Qur’an itself indicates. Jesus’ enemies did not succeed in killing him (4:157) but God raised him to himself (4:158). Here we have a position that some early Christians held, and which Muslims can also hold while being faithful to the Qur’an. Moreover, this position is supported by the second and third of Dr. Craig’s purported five facts: that Jesus was given an honourable burial, and that his tomb was found empty.

In response to this, Dr. Craig repeats that this position is neither Islamic nor Christian. But he seems to have missed the point. I have shown it to be both Islamic and Christian. While it is not what the classical Quranic interpreters explained, it is nevertheless true to the Qur’an. And while it is not what the New Testament Gospels portray, it is what is known from earlier Gospel material such as Q and the pre-Marcan passion narrative.

The essential point that the Qur’an is making is that Jesus was not killed by his enemies but was raised up by God. On the interpretation to which I subscribe, Jesus was taken down alive from the cross. But this does not deny that he ever died. If he was taken either in a state of sleep or death this would not contradict the Qur’an. While the Qur’an in 4:158 affirms that God raised Jesus, the timing and manner of that raising is not specified. Moreover, other Quranic verses render open the question of whether Jesus was taken up alive or dead. For example, the Qur’an in 3:55 speaks of Jesus being raised by God. But here the verse says that God will take Jesus and raise him. The verb for ‘take’ is tawaffa which can mean ‘to cause to die’ or simply ‘to take’. Usually the term is used as a euphemism to signify that a person was taken by God in death. Had the Qur’an used the term maata, however, this would more surely signify death.

Because the Qur’an can allow for both situations, that Jesus could have been taken up to heaven either dead or alive, the views of both Smith and Zeller can be accommodated. Smith argues that the early belief was in Jesus’ post-mortem assumption into heaven; whereas Zeller thinks that the early belief was in the assumption of Jesus while yet alive. In fact, the Qur’an can accommodate a variety of views. It does not even need the empty tomb or the honourable burial. The Qur’an does not say whether Jesus was taken in body or spirit, whether before or after death. But such is the nature of the Qur’an in that it does not elaborate on the history of the prophets, but merely alludes to the known stories about them. It is legitimate in interpreting the Qur’an to ask which stories it may be referring to. Dr. Craig seemed to take exception to my attempt to make the connection between the bare Quranic statement and the Gospel stories. But this is the basic method by which Muslim scholars have been doing Quranic exegesis from time immemorial. The difference is that in the case of the story of Jesus is that they made a few minor mistakes in the process resulting in an interpretation of the events that has little in common with the Christian Gospel materials. They were confused in their choice between competing alternative versions of what happened to Jesus, some in the Christian gospels and some from Gnostic streams of Christian thought. Being unable to mediate between these competing versions of what happened to Jesus, they settled for an ultra-literal explanation of certain words in the Quranic verse 4:157. Yet in elaborating one word at a time they did not pay sufficient attention to the logical connection between the thoughts that flow throughout the verse, and they did not link the meaning of salb (crucifixion) here with other instances of the word’s usage elsewhere in the Qur’an.

Moreover, the classical Quranic exegetes wanted to emphasize the power of God in the series of events. Hence they assumed that God would rescue Jesus before any harm comes to him. This seems to be Dr. Craig’s assumption as well. If there is going to be a rescue operation, he argues, my version of the events has God doing too little too late. Why wait until after Jesus has gone through the humiliation and pain of flogging and a few hours of crucifixion? But God has in fact for his own good reasons allowed some of his prophets to suffer much humiliation and pain at the hands of their opponents. Some were tortured and killed. In this case, on the view I follow, God intervened before it was too late, sedated Jesus so he would feel no more pain, and took him up to heaven to heal his wounds and console him for the pain he suffered. I do not see this as being too little too late.

Dr. Craig asserted that the Qur’an is in error for on the one hand asserting in 19:33 that Jesus died and in 4:157 that he did not die. But he is wrong with regards to both verses. We have already shown that while 4:157 denies that Jesus’ enemies killed him, it does not deny that he died by other means. Moreover, 19:33 does not affirm the death of Jesus as a past event. It merely has Jesus speak of a day when he will die. But that day could still lie in the future. Hence the Qur’an does not contradict itself on this score.

In a final attempt to cast doubt on my position, Dr. Craig claims: The Qur’an says Jesus was not crucified, but Shabir says that Jesus was crucified. His conclusion is not stated, but the implication is that I am contradicting the Qur’an. It should be evident here, however, that Dr. Craig commits the fallacy of equivocation, for he uses the term crucified in two different senses in his two premises. I do not affirm the crucifixion in the same sense in which the Qur’an denies that the Jews crucified Jesus. From what I have explained, one may say that Jesus was crucified in that he hung on a cross. But this is not the sense in which the Qur’an denies that the Jews crucified Jesus. Therefore Dr. Craig’s conclusion is logically fallacious. I do not deny the Qur’an. Rather, I affirm with the Qur’an that the Jews did not crucify Jesus, meaning that they did not kill him by that means. It may seem more pious to apply every possible meaning to a Quranic word. But that would be a poor manner of doing exegesis not only of the Qur’an but of any book. One has to consider the meaning that emerges from context and leave alone other possible word meanings which were obviously not intended in the context under discussion.

The position I advance is simple. Despite the efforts of the enemies of Jesus to have him slain, like bungling criminals they overlooked certain little things which added up to Jesus surviving the cross. There was no spear-thrust. Jesus’ legs were not broken. And he was on the cross for only a few hours.  The Roman governor marvelled that Jesus could have died so soon. And the only person to assure him that Jesus was dead was the Centurion who by this time had no interest in killing Jesus. The earliest of our four gospels, that of Mark, attests to this initial doubt on the part of Pilate. And the later gospels, especially Matthew and Luke, omit mention of that doubt. But we can see that the doubt once existed. Thus the Qur’an says that the enemies of Jesus were left in doubt about this. Hence those who meant to kill Jesus could not be certain (4:157) that they finished what they started. But he was taken down alive, placed in a tomb, from where he ascended directly to heaven. The post-resurrection appearances to the disciples are accounted for on the hypothesis that there was only one such appearance; that this was a vision of Jesus which the disciples were granted by God; that this led to the proclamation that Jesus was alive; and that this proclamation took on a life of its own developing as it did into a variety of competing legendary reports. Some such reports were shaped for the purpose of showing the superiority of certain leaders in specific locations to whom Jesus supposedly first appeared. Some proclaimed that Jesus appeared first to Peter. Others proclaimed that Jesus appeared first to James. These two proclamations were combined into a single sequential proclamation such as we find in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. All of the above is easily demonstrated, based as they are on modern biblical scholarly works.

In the end, we may draw together the two sides of this debate. Dr. Craig argued that the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead is proven on the basis of five facts. Three of these facts have been severely undermined by my arguments: Jesus was not quite dead on the cross; he did not appear to his disciples in the manner depicted in the later developed stories in the gospels; and faith in Jesus did not depend on the resurrection. The remaining two purported facts support my hypothesis that Jesus was taken down alive from the cross and then translated or transported into heaven from his tomb. Hence I did not take issue with the claim that Jesus was respectfully placed in an airy tomb, and that his tomb was subsequently found empty. I have shown that this view is faithful to the Qur’an, as the Quranic use of the word salb is in the sense of ‘to kill by crucifixion’ and that when this term is juxtaposed with qatl which normally means ‘to kill’ the latter must mean ‘to kill by ordinary means’. I apply this meaning consistently in both Qur’an 4:157 and Qur’an 5:33.

In conclusion, I do not understand on what basis Dr. Craig claims victory in this debate. Nor do I understand why he would make such a superfluous boast even if he did think he won. I would hold that Dr. Craig neither proved the resurrection of Jesus, nor did he prove the Qur’an to be in error. Nor could he disregard the suggestion that Jesus was assumed into heaven as an alternative to the Gospel accounts which allege that Jesus appeared in the flesh to his disciples on multiple occasions after his alleged death on the cross. The early Christian belief in the assumption of Jesus parallels the Muslim belief that God raised Jesus. Finally, instead of looking for a winner in this debate, we have new information that could stimulate further study. In the past Muslims and Christians argued with each other over the resurrection of Jesus. Now both sides can see that the two beliefs are not as far apart as they first appear. There is a middle ground: Jesus was translated or transported into heaven.  Dr. Craig dubbed this position Chrislam which he said was neither Christianity nor Islam. But I have shown that it is both Christian and Muslim: early Christian and quite Quranic. It turns out that we all benefit from a debate like this, and hence we are all winners. Christians who had difficulty believing that the resurrected Jesus dined with his disciples after his death can now be assured that this was not the original Christian belief. And Muslims who wanted a way to affirm faith in the Qur’an without contradicting their Christian friends on the basic story of the crucifixion now have a way forward. The Qur’an does not deny that Jesus was placed on the cross, but does insist that he did not die thereupon.

This of course does not end all debate, but it does settle one question. Instead of getting stuck on the question of whether or not Jesus hung on a cross, we can now advance the debate to the question of the reason for Jesus to hang on the cross. Was he an innocent sufferer on the cross, a victim of oppressive religious leaders of his time, or was he a sacrificial victim bearing the guilt of all sin by the express plan of God to appease his own anger? A central teaching of Islam is that the innocent does not pay for the guilty. The question of how Jesus’ career ended should not distract us from discussing this central teaching. While it is one of the articles of the Muslim faith to believe in God’s messengers including Jesus, the precise manner in which he left this world is not spelled out. Several beliefs about this event are possible for a Muslim, as the Quranic verses that speak of this leave some room for interpretation. And while a Muslim must believe in the Qur’an, it is not a requirement that Muslims believe in all interpretations of the Qur’an. Likewise, the Christian belief is not simply that Jesus was crucified, but that Jesus was crucified for our transgressions. In the final analysis, therefore, it is the question of the purpose for which Jesus allegedly hung on the cross that separates Muslims and Christians. Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins as demanded by God’s sense of justice; whereas Muslims believe that if Jesus died for our sins this would offend God’s sense of justice which precludes the innocent from being penalised for the sins of the guilty. Let’s discuss this. And, if anyone is still not convinced that Jesus survived the cross let’s also discuss that some more.