Friday, 13 April 2012

Jesus Forgiving Sins In Light of the Lord's Prayer

Some Muslim misunderstanding

by Sam Shamoun

Question: Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus had the sole ability to forgive sins. What are to be found are instances where Jesus says “you are forgiven.” This is no solid proof of his alleged ability to remove sins. One can interpret such instances as Jesus’ affirmation from God that the person’s transgressions are forgiven and it is not that he himself forgave the sinner’s sins. Besides, Jesus taught his companions a way to pray and in the prayer we are taught, “Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” If the ability to forgive sins makes one God then the 12 disciples and everyone who believes in the “Lord’s prayer” are Gods too! If there are instances of Jesus apparently forgiving sins by saying for instance, “I forgive you,” then the disciples as well as all Christians who practice and recite the “Lord’s prayer” are gods. Why, then, still insist that this ability to forgive sinners proves that Jesus is God? (1)

Answer: Before proceeding with our response here is Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer so that the readers can see what the Lord actually said to his disciples:

He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.”’” Luke 11:1-4; cf. Matthew 6:9-15

It is clear from the context that the Lord wasn’t claiming that his followers had the power to forgive sins in general. Rather, he was instructing them on the importance of forgiving anyone who had sinned against them; otherwise God would not forgive their sins if they refused to pardon those who had transgressed against them. This point comes out more clearly in the Matthean version which concludes this prayer with the following warning:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15

This is further seen from the following passage:

“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, “Pay what you owe.” So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’” Matthew 18:21-35

However, it is vitally important to note that just because someone forgives a person who has sinned against him/her this doesn’t mean that God will necessarily forgive the offender. Nor does this imply that God will not forgive a person who has offended his family member or neighbor just because the offended party refuses to pardon their transgressor or debtor.

For example, suppose someone murdered an individual and is imprisoned. If the person truly repents and asks God and the victim’s family to forgive him/her the transgressor will be pardoned by God even if the family refuses to do so. However, if this same person is unrepentant and refuses to confess and acknowledge his/her sins to God then s/he will remain under God’s wrath even if the victim’s family decides to pardon him/her. What God will do is honour the family for not holding a grudge in their heart or for seeking vengeance. The Lord will bless them for entrusting their cause to God who always does what is right and just. As the Scripture says:

“Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:16-21

And: For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we solemnly forewarned you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

It is vitally important to realize that all sins are committed against God, even those done to one’s neighbor since human beings bear God’s image:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27

Therefore, to sin against a human being is to offend and commit transgressions against God as the following passages demonstrate:

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:9-10


“For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” Psalm 51:1-4

David realized that his sin against Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was ultimately a transgression against the infinitely holy and just God.

When we come to the issue of Christ forgiving sins it is evident that this was radically different from the way the believers were expected to pardon those who transgressed against them. In the contexts where Christ forgave transgressors there is no indication that he was pardoning individuals for some offense that they had committed against him during his earthly life or ministry. It is abundantly clear that Jesus is forgiving sins committed against God:

“And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’ And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?’ When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ -- he said to the man who was paralyzed – ‘I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’” Luke 5:18-26 – cf. Matthew 9:1-8

And: “One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answering said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he answered, ‘What is it, Teacher?’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” Luke 7:36-50

As such, Jesus wasn’t pardoning people who had personally offended him… unless of course Jesus is God! In that case any sin committed against God would be an offense against Jesus himself.

To put this in another way, Jesus could only forgive sins committed against God is if he truly believed he was God. Otherwise, it would have been more than just a bit presumptuous for him (in fact, it would be blasphemy as the Jews rightly observed) to declare someone forgiven who had personally offended God, not him. It is like someone telling a person that s/he forgives him/her for offending somebody else!

This leads us to the other part of the objection. Not only did the Jews understand that Jesus was claiming to have the power to forgive sins, an exclusively Divine prerogative according to the OT:

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19

The Lord never once corrected their understanding. He never once told them that he wasn’t actually pardoning these sinners but was merely communicating the revelation which he had received that God had forgiven them. Instead, Jesus went on to perform a supernatural healing to confirm that as the Son of Man he actually does have this Divine authority to forgive!

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . . He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” Mark 2:5-12

Jesus not only forgives and heals he also knows what people are thinking within their hearts! According to the OT these qualities and functions belong to Yahweh:

“then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of men), so that they will fear you and walk in your ways all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers…When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.” 2 Chronicles 6:30-31, 36-39 – 1 Kings 8:39-40, 46-51

“When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, the LORD appeared to him at night and said: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.’” 2 Chronicles 7:11-16

“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits -who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.” Psalm 103:2-5

Moreover, by referring to himself as the Son of Man who forgives sins Jesus was clearly making himself out to be God since he wasn’t claiming to be just any ordinary son of man. Jesus was actually identifying himself as the very Son of Man whom the prophet Daniel had seen in a vision:

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

What makes this particular Son of Man rather amazing is that he rides the clouds like God, reigns forever like God does, and is worshiped by everyone like God is (cf. 7:27; Isaiah 19:1; Psalm 68:33-34, 86:9, 104:3; Micah 4:7; Nahum 1:3)! In light of these factors it is evident that Daniel’s Son of Man is a fully Divine Person who appears as a man and happens to be personally distinct from God (i.e., the Ancient of Days mentioned in Daniel 7:9-10, 13, 22).

There is no doubt that Jesus believed that he was the One whom Daniel saw since this is what he told his accusers at his trial:

“But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.’” Matthew 26:63-66 – cf. Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:66-70

Thus, by referring to himself as Daniel’s Son of Man Jesus was basically claiming to be God in human flesh! In light of this fact should it come as surprise that Jesus taught that he could actually forgive sins?

Jesus further proclaimed that repentance and forgiveness of sins comes from believing and having faith in his name:

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’” Luke 24:44-48

“Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles -- to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” Acts 26:12-18

Even God's very own angels testified that Jesus is the Saviour who comes to personally deliver his people from their sins:

“And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!’” Luke 2:8-14

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:18-21

The NT once again ascribes a function to Jesus which the OT says Yahweh performs!

“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared… O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:3-4, 7-8

The risen Lord’s inspired apostles also preached this very message. For instance, Peter told the masses that everyone must be baptized in the name of Jesus in order to be forgiven:

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.’” Acts 2:37-39

Peter even performed miracles in Jesus’ name as a testimony that salvation and forgiveness are found only in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ since he is the Author of Life and the Saviour whom God raised up to turn people away from their sins:

“The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old… When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3:13-21, 26

“The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.” Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’” Acts 4:5-12

“God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” Acts 5:31

“And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, ‘Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’” Acts 15:7-11

Peter even believed that this was the message of all the OT prophets as well!

“And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:39-43

The blessed Apostle Paul taught something similar:

“And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another psalm, ‘Thou wilt not let thy Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the counsel of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers, and saw corruption; but he whom God raised up saw no corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:32-39

In one of his epistles Paul wrote that the reason why believers need to forgive one another is because the Lord Jesus has forgiven them:

“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive… And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord… Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord… Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:12-13, 17-18, 20, 22-24

The blessed Apostle further wrote that God forgives all true believers for the sake of Christ, because of what Christ has done for them on the cross,

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,” Colossians 1:13-14, 19-22

“to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:6-7

“and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in [because of/for the sake of] Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

As if this weren’t amazing enough Paul proclaimed that Jesus is the Great God and Saviour who has redeemed a people for his own possession!

“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:13-14

In conclusion, it is evident from our examination that the disciples did not have the ability to forgive sins the way the Lord Jesus did and continues to do. Nor was Jesus merely affirming that God (the Father) had forgiven the trespasses of these individuals, as opposed to pardoning their sins himself. Both the language and the context of these NT passages emphatically testify that Jesus himself forgave people their sins since he is the Divine Son of Man and unique Son of God who performs the very works that only God can do:

“Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For JUST AS the Father raises the dead and gives them life, EVEN SO the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son JUST AS they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his [Son’s] voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.’” John 5:19-29

Amen! Come Lord Jesus, come! You are our great God and Saviour who forgives all our sins and redeems us from every lawless deed in order that we might live in such a way as to bring you glory, honour, and praise! We love and adore you, O risen Lord of glory! Amen.

Related Articles

(1) This particular objection was taken and adapted from this article.
The readers will find it under the entry listed as 3. Jesus is God because he forgave sins which is God’s exclusive prerogative. In another post the dawagandist raised this same objection, but this time he had to deliberately misquote the Lord’s Prayer in order to make his case!

Further more, have you forgotten the Lord’s prayer? Jesus taught his companions a way to pray and in the prayer we are taught,” Forgive our sins as WE FORGIVE the sins of others”. If the ability to forgive sins makes one God.. then the 12 disciples and everyone who believes in the “Lord’s prayer” are Gods too..are they? (Ibn Anwar, November 29, 2007 at 7:09 am)

As we already saw that is not what the Lord’s Prayer says. It is obvious that the polemicist was trying to do everything he can to weaken this rather strong case for Jesus’ Deity to the extent that he felt it necessary to twist the words of the Lord Jesus. In doing so the dawagandist has deceived his readers into thinking that Jesus claimed that his followers also had the ability to forgive sins in general, not just offenses committed against them, when in fact the Lord never made such an assertion.

The rest of this neophyte’s points have already been addressed and thoroughly refuted in our articles and rebuttals that can be found in the following links:




Muhammad: The modern Marcion of Arabia1

Continues from Part I

Making repeated references to the martyrdom of God’s messengers by the Jews did not prevent Muhammad from taking a different course with the Jewish community when Jesus’ death was in question. The only statement that overtly denies Jesus’ crucifixion and endorses the theory of illusion in the Qur’an seems to have been uttered during a heated debate between Muhammad and some Jews who bragged about Jesus’ death in the hands of their ancestors:

And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah … (Surah 4:157)

Obviously, this verbal dueling bothered Muhammad a lot since the Jews he invited to Islam presented the crucifixion as a sign of Jesus’ failure and the invalidity of the doctrines concerning His miraculous birth and His identification as the Messiah. This resistance led Muhammad to the conclusion that the acceptance of Jesus’ humiliating death on the cross would be equal to conceding defeat to the Jews. In other words, Muhammad was easily convinced that Jesus’ crucifixion indicated weakness as it came to represent for him a stumbling block to the strength of his ideology. Naturally, Muhammad joined the side of the people teaching that Jesus’ cross was foolishness and a shame that had to be covered. Paul the apostle had predicted this kind of an approach to the message of the cross and rebuked the people who were ashamed of the cross:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
(1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

As a mainly political leader of this age, Muhammad failed to understand that the cross meant God’s wisdom and might. Ironically, he made himself similar to the Jews in that he agreed with them that Jesus’ crucifixion was a shame and disgrace for his faith.

While struggling with the Jewish disbelief and their exploitation of the cross as a strong political weapon against his ideology, Muhammad became aware of the Gnostic theories and embraced them as they saved him from the supposed shame of the cross. The influence of the Gnostic heresies on Muhammad’s refusal of the crucifixion is evident in that Muhammad did not only deny Jesus’ death, but also affiliated his denial with Jesus’ returning to the Heavens (God’s presence). This is why he deemed it necessary to repeat that Jesus’ alleged redemption from death on the cross was bound to His ascension to Heaven:

They killed him not for sure. Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty, Wise. (Surah 4:157-158)

More, it is by no means a coincidence that in the same verse rejecting the crucifixion, Muhammad established a thematic connection between his denial of the Jewish allegations and the supposed Jewish ignorance of what had actually happened to Jesus. The way Muhammad accused the Jews of ignorance and following a conjecture implied that Muhammad’s god was then revealing a secret about Jesus, which reminds one of the Gnostic secrets:

And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. (Surah 4:157)

Muhammad was definitely grateful to the Gnostic heresies and reserved a place for them in his Qur’an although he distorted them by being unfaithful to the basic Gnostic tenet fed by the duality between the matter and the spirit. Interestingly, this new version of the Gnostic Docetism in the Qur’an replaced the constant struggle and enmity between the flesh and the soul with that between the Jews and Muslims. Actually, what persuaded Muhammad to adopt the Gnostic denial of the crucifixion was that he and the Gnostics had the common enemy: the Jews.

The fundamental dualist mode of thinking in Gnosticism that was related to the constant clash between contrastive pairs (flesh versus soul, darkness versus light, death versus life, etc.) inevitably marked the Jews as the evil community that was affiliated with the Law and the body. The projection of these contrastive pairs unto the sphere of racial affinities and politics resulted in the contention that the Jews corresponded to the evil and deadly flesh because they followed the Mosaic Law at the expense of the supposed redemption through the acquisition of the secret knowledge from Jesus. This dangerous tendency to associate the Jews with this “sinful and mortal world” that adored the flesh and hated the soul formed new Gnostic heresies that abhorred not only the Jews, but also their religion and their God.

It was true that Christians, as the followers of Jesus the Messiah, were rather naturally separated from the Jews, but this estrangement started to target the faith of the Jews even to the point of denying the God of Israel along with His nation when Gnosticism tried to replace mainstream Christianity. In the second century after Christ a certain man named Marcion posed a serious threat to the Christian teachings when he attempted to distinguish Jesus as the good God from the so-called evil God of the Old Testament. Marcionism13 was the name given to this new and challenging heresy that the Church faced in her early days. Marcion’s objective to remove the Torah from the Christian scriptures and the reason underlying his zealous opposition to the God of the Jews illustrated how the dualist structure in Gnosticism equated the Jews with the supposedly evil material and corrupted human flesh. This inclination to stigmatize the Jews as a vicious and sinful community became an indispensable element of Gnostic teachings. Accordingly, Gnosticism came to reflect anti-Semitic ideas and teachings14.

Undoubtedly, Muhammad was not concerned with the theological system of Gnosticism. However, he allowed the Gnostic theory of illusion that served to deny Jesus’ crucifixion make its way into his Qur’an primarily because he saw that the anti-Jewish implications of the Gnostic heresies was perfectly fitting for his new ideology named Islam. In Muhammad’s eyes the Jews were politically evil and treacherous. This is why he once forced the Jews into the same category as the cruel pagans whilst he praised the Christians for their good relations with Muslims:

Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainlyfind the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly. (Surah 5:82)

Muhammad’s anti-Jewish sensations in the Medina period of the Qur’an sometimes went further than political rivalry and enmity and reflected the effects of some Gnostic doctrines on the peculiar way Muhammad viewed the Jews. For instance, he added a verse into the Qur’an to stress the distinction between the Jews and Christians with regard to the notion of mercy, implying that those who followed Jesus (Christians) were merciful and mild in sharp contrast to those who did not believe in Jesus (Jews). This depiction may be linked to the Gnostic heresies (Marcionism, for example) that marked the Jews as cruel people:

Then We made Our apostles to follow in their footsteps, and We sent Isa son of Marium afterwards, and We gave him the Injeel, and We put in the hearts of those who followed him kindness and mercy. (Surah 57:27)

The parallelism between Muhammad’s anti-Semitic propaganda and certain Gnostic teachings that targeted the Jews would become apparent in the narration of Jesus’ life story in the Medina period of the Qur’an. As we stated before, Muhammad’s choice of the denial of Jesus’ death authorized and backed up Gnostic Docetism since Gnosticism had declared the Jews as the cursed enemy long before Muhammad came to this world and made himself a prophet. In accordance with his pursuit of the Gnostic heresies about Jesus’ death, Muhammad for the first time took the Jewish disbelief in Jesus’ story one step further than simple resistance and taught that the Jews had actually attempted to slay Jesus. He argued that this attempt failed because Allah retaliated with a far better plot and rescued Jesus from His adversaries:

And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners. (Surah 3:54)

Although Muhammad clearly denied that Jesus had been slain by the Jews in Surah 3, he did not explain the historical reality of Jesus’ passion through an illusion until he got the 4th Surah devised. Still, the verse rejecting the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion in the 3rd Surah displays the influence of the Gnostic teachings in a couple of ways. First, the assertion that Jesus was not slain by the Jews is directly associated with Jesus’ ascension. Second, the sentences supposedly uttered by God in a speech to Jesus perfectly reveal the anti-Jewish teachings propagated by Gnosticism:

And when Allah said: O Isa, I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me and purify you of those who disbelieve… (Surah 3:55)

Muhammad’s god confesses in this verse that his motive for taking Jesus up to himself was Jesus’ “purification” from those who did not believe Him. If one understands that “those who do not believe” pertain to the Jews, the question why specifically the verb “purify” is used in this verse can find an explanation. Jesus’ ascension in the Islamic scripture corresponds to His purification from the Jews because Muhammad’s god thought that the Jews were dirty people that contaminated Jesus in this world. This is exactly compatible with what some Gnostic heresies – for instance, Marcionism – taught about the Jews.

More, the Islamic supposition of Jesus’ purification from the Jews through His ascension is also related to the Gnostic depiction of humans’ creation as the imprisonment of the soul in the evil body. Accordingly, death in Gnostic theology is the equivalent of a soul’s freedom from the prison of the mortal body and the world of the materials. Muhammad’s anti-Jewish sentiments and policies modified this theology and resulted in the portrayal of the Jews as the morbid community of disbelievers that wanted to humiliate and kill Jesus. While refusing Jesus’ crucifixion in the 3rd Surah, Muhammad once more preferred Christians to Jews by marking those who did not believe in Jesus as inferior people. This contrast and the idea that Christians are preferred to Jews until the Day of Judgment illustrate Muhammad’s intimacy with the Gnostic doctrines:

And when Allah said: O Isa, I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me and purify you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the day of resurrection. (Surah 3:55)

Another interesting detail in the verse above concerns Jesus’ death prior to His ascension. The meaning of the verb occurring in the original text has been subject to dispute among Muslim scholars for many centuries. Since some scholars believe that Jesus will taste death after His second coming, they avoid interpreting the verb in this verse literally. No matter how Muslim scholars interpret the particular word referring to Jesus’ death (or sleep), the association between the termination of Jesus’ life and His ascension can still be construed in favor of the Gnostic influence on Muhammad’s approach to the cross and Jesus’ death. Although it is true that Gnosticism denied the reality of Jesus’ physical death, it is also true that Gnosticism regarded Jesus’ supposedly prevented crucifixion as the termination of His mission in Israel. According to the Gnostics, the Jews attempted to kill Jesus and indirectly contributed to His ascension from this malignant world of the corrupted material. In the Gospel of Judas, which is a recently-discovered apocryphal writing promoting Gnosticism, Jesus praises Judas Iscariot for his betrayal because Judas leads Jesus to death, which is equal to Jesus’ salvation from this world15.

The Qur’an verses in Surah 3 similarly present the end of Jesus’ life as the cause of His ascension and glorification after binding it to the Jewish scheme of murder:

And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners. And when Allah said: O Isa, I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me and purify you of those who disbelieve. (Surah 3:54-55)

Thus, it is possible to construe the reference to Jesus’ death (termination of His life) in Surah 3:55 metaphorically and assert that the cause and meaning of Jesus’ death in the verses above were also influenced by the Gnostic teachings. Muhammad believed that the Jewish plots to kill Jesus motivated His separation from this world in the unique form of ascension. To consolidate this doctrine, Muhammad did not refer to Jesus’ physical death in the 4th Surah when he vainly attempted to refute the historical reality of Jesus’ crucifixion with the help of the Gnostic theory of illusion. His adherence to the presumption that Jesus only appeared to have been crucified and murdered by the Jews was naturally related to his anti-Jewish propaganda and aims to stigmatize the Jews as deceived people.

It is likely that Muhammad could never be acquainted with the Christian theology concerning Jesus’ passion or with the significance of the cross for the basic Christian doctrine of salvation. The fact that the Qur’an lacks a reference to the Christian veneration of the cross as well as a critique of the Christian faith in a crucified Messiah supports the allegation that Muhammad or his scribes knew almost nothing about the way Christians viewed Jesus’ crucifixion. Nevertheless, the following verses of the Qur’an may be presented by some Muslim scholars to support the theory that Islam openly objects to the idea of salvation through one’s atoning death:

Say: What! shall I seek a Lord other than Allah? And He is the Lord of all things; and no soul earns (evil) but against itself, and no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another; then to your Lord is your return, so He will inform you of that in which you differed. (Surah 6:164)

Whoever goes aright, for his own soul does he go aright; and whoever goes astray, to its detriment only does he go astray: nor can the bearer of a burden bear the burden of another, nor do We chastise until We raise an apostle. (Surah 17:15)

And a burdened soul cannot bear the burden of another and if one weighed down by>burden should cry for (another to carry) its>burden, not aught of it shall be carried, even though he be near of kin. You warn only those who fear their Lord in secret and keep up prayer; and whoever purifies himself, he purifies himself only for (the good of) his own soul; and to Allah is the eventual coming. (Surah 35:18)

It should be noted that the recurring rule accentuating an individual’s responsibility only for one’s personal sins in the verses above are violated by other Qur’an verses under specific circumstances. In contrast to the dogmatic teaching that no sinner can be held responsible for someone else’s sins, the following verses in the Islamic scripture teach that some sinners will be regarded guilty for misleading others and eventually carry the sins of the people they lead astray:

And most certainly they shall carry their own burdens, and other burdens with their own burdens, and most certainly they shall be questioned on the resurrection day as to what they forged. (Surah 29:13)

That they may bear their burdens entirely on the day of resurrection and also of the burdens of those whom they lead astray without knowledge; now surely evil is what they bear. (Surah 16:25)

It must be stressed that the Islamic doctrine repudiating the transfer of sins between sinners, even with exceptions to this rule, have nothing to do with the Christian concept of atonement through Jesus’ death. The repeated statements in the Qur’an can by no means be associated with Jesus’ redemptive act defined in the New Testament, for these statements overtly talk of the relation between sinners and imply that no sinner can save or help another sinner. This particular Islamic teaching does not essentially contradict the Christian doctrine that Jesus became our Savior by carrying our sins and dying on the cross for us since in Christian theology Jesus is the only sinless human. Thus, the assertion that the verses quoted above refuse the possibility of redemption through Jesus’ death has no validity as in Christian theology Jesus is considered neither a sinner nor an ordinary man or prophet.

While analyzing the context of the Islamic denial of the crucifixion, one should also take into consideration the prospect that Muhammad heard and at least partly knew what Christians believed about Jesus’ death in the hands of the Jews, but was not concerned with the Christian doctrine of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice since this tenet would by no means serve him anything good in his war against the Jewish allegations in the political arena. It is also worthy of note that Muhammad gave implicit reasons for his adoption of the Gnostic theory of illusion in the 4th Surah of the Qur’an when he strove to affiliate the supposed illusion with the sins and misdeeds of the Jews. To follow it from the Qur’an:

The followers of the Book ask you to bring down to them a book from heaven; so indeed they demanded of Musa a greater thing than that, for they said: Show us Allah manifestly; so the lightning overtook them on account of their injustice. Then they took the calf (for a god), after clear signs had come to them, but We pardoned this; and We gave to Musa clear authority. And We lifted the mountain (Sainai) over them at (the taking of the covenant) and We said to them: Enter the door making obeisance; and We said to them: Do not exceed the limits of the Sabbath, and We made with them a firm covenant. Therefore, for their breaking their covenant and their disbelief in the communications of Allah and their killing the prophets wrongfully and their saying: Our hearts are covered; nay! Allah set a seal upon them owing to their unbelief, so they shall not believe except a few. And for their unbelief and for their having uttered against Marium a grievous calumny. And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, butit appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. (Surah 4:153-157)

Obviously, Muhammad targeted the Jews in the verses prior to the promotion of the Gnostic theory of illusion as he tried to give almost a chronological list of the sins the Israelites had committed until Jesus’ death. Although the phrase “the followers of the Book” may refer to both Jews and Christians in the Qur’an, the accusations in the verses are apparently directed at Jews as Christians did not worship a calf in Moses’ period or libeled Jesus’ mother Mary as an unchaste woman. Interestingly, the accusations against the Jews in the Qur’an are directly affiliated with the schemes of Jesus’ crucifixion. This thematic parallelism and the relevant presentation of the supposed illusion as the punishment of all the Jewish misdeeds are a product of the false combination of some Christian doctrines with the anti-Jewish sentiments of Gnosticism.

Although in Christian theology Jesus’ crucifixion is in line with the martyrdom of the prophets and messengers in Israel, Jesus’ death is unique in that it is turned by God’s wisdom into an act of universal redemption from sin. In other words, Jesus suffers and dies in the hands of His own folk like many other prophets, but only His death brings grace and forgiveness as He is the Savior and the Son of God unlike the other prophets. The Qur’an similarly draws a parallelism between the martyrdom of the former prophets in the hands of the Jews (“their killing the prophets wrongfully” in verse 155) and their attempt to crucify Jesus. More, the Qur’an seemingly agrees with the Bible when it implies that Jesus was singled out by God from the group of the former prophets.

However, the same Qur’an overtly contradicts the Bible when it comes to the point of explaining how Jesus’ case was made unique as it contends that Jesus was the only Israeli prophet whose murder by the Jews was prevented through divine intervention and an illusion. This drastic modification in the interpretation of the peculiarities of Jesus’ death shows that Muhammad wanted to make use of Jesus in his political hostility toward the Jews and chose to strip Jesus’ death of any theological implications concerning the salvation of mankind. Since Muhammad’s priority was the punishment of the Jews because of and through Jesus, the denial of the crucifixion with the help of a deceptive strategy would perfectly serve the Islamic ideal of identifying the Jews as a foolish community that was castigated thanks to their desire to crucify Jesus.

The outcome of this priority was a fundamental shift from the essential faith of universal salvation in Christianity to the degradation of Jews in Islam. Since Muhammad delighted in abusing Jesus of Nazareth as an amazingly powerful political weapon and a handy tool of anti-Jewish sentiments, he tried to dissociate Jesus from the cross and the basic Christian doctrine of salvation. Consequently, in Muhammad’s scripture Jesus’ crucifixion ceased to represent divine love and grace extended by the merciful Father, but began to stand for the foremost instrument of divine hatred against the Jewish community. This is why in the Qur’an Jesus is not the Lamb of God offered for the eternal covenant between God the Father and his children, but is a sacrifice offered so that Muhammad’s desire to take revenge from Jews, the murderers of all the former messengers, can be satisfied.

Muhammad’s pursuit of the Gnostic theory of illusion at any cost was definitely related to his enmity to the Jews. The assumption that Jesus’ crucifixion was but an optical illusion provided by Allah’s might and wisdom is actually the ultimate Islamic achievement of a long-term political campaign that endeavored to designate “the Jewish” as “the foolish”. Such a struggle is apparent in the Islamic supposition that Allah, despite his primary attribute of honesty, managed to fool the Jews by making them kill someone else in Jesus’ stead. The alleged deception of the Jews in the Qur’an takes the form of an eternal curse that condemns the Jewish race to ignorance and foolishness. In short, Muhammad’s god sacrificed his honesty so that he could punish and mock the Jews through Muhammad whilst Muhammad became the modern Marcion of Arabia.

The comparative analysis of the Gnostic heresies with the Islamic teaching denying the crucifixion confirms the theory that Islam borrowed the denial and its means from the Gnostic Docetism. No matter how reluctant Muslim scholars are to admit it, the sudden occurrence of the denial of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Qur’an and the absolute political nature of this denial indicate that Muhammad adopted from Gnostic heresies only after distorting the Gnostic creed by straining it through a political filter. Consequently, what we read today about Jesus’ death in the Qur’an is the distorted version of Gnosticism, which is fathered by Muhammad’s anti-Jewish sentiments and ideology.

1 This article is dedicated to the six Christian believers martyred by Muslims in Pakistan (here).
2 All the Christian scriptural references in this study come from the NET Bible.
3 All the Islamic scriptural references in this study come from Shakir's English translation of the Qur'an.
4 For a detailed information on the doctrines and historical development of Gnosticism:
5 For more on Docetism and its history:
6 It should be born in mind that Gnosticism was actually around before Christianity. Gnostics only tried to incorporate many great Christian thoughts into their system by subjecting the Gospel to their own principles.
9 The Original Sources of the Qur'an, chapter IV: The Influence of Christianity and Christian Apocryphal Books, section 6
10 For more information on the abuse of the non-canonical Christian scripture in the devisal of some Qur'an chapters: Surah Mariam: The Curse of the Apocrypha
11 The full text of this Gnostic scripture can be read at
12 A detailed analysis of this issue can be found in these two articles (1,2).
13 For more information on this particular Gnostic heresy and its founder:
14 "Because Gnosticism villifies the God of the Old Testament, a number of scholars believe it is 'fundamentally anti-Semitic'", says Scot McKnight, professor of religion at North Park University:
15 Source:




Muhammad: The modern Marcion of Arabia1

Masud Masihiyyen

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)2

And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. (Surah 4:157)3

The denial of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Qur’an (Surah 4:157) cannot be considered an originally and inherently Islamic doctrine targeting one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity. History testifies to the fact that certain heretical groups that came into existence in the early apostolic period and gained fame in the second century refused to believe in the reality of the crucifixion. Despite showing minor variations, adherents of such groups were known by the collective term “Gnostics” and contended that the crucified Messiah was but an optical illusion.

Some try to make the argument that the existence of certain believers denying Jesus’ crucifixion in the early era of Christianity is detrimental to the Christian faith, for some producers or followers of conspiracy theories may tend to regard the teachings of the heterodox Christian groups in the early days of the Church as remnants of the major Islamic teachings supposedly delivered by Prophet Jesus. Actually, the false teachings of the Gnostic groups that deny the reality of Jesus’ passion and death are one of the few heresies that Muslims delight in using to back up the charges of biblical corruption and of the so-called apostasy from the Islamic doctrines after Jesus’ ascension. To put it another way, some Muslims may refer to the rejection of the crucifixion in the early period of the Church to validate and historicize their allegations concerning Jesus’ crucifixion in the Qur’an. This is why it becomes crucial to analyze both the Gnostic and Islamic doctrines about Jesus’ death and in order to evaluate the claim that Gnosticism inherited the denial of Christ’s crucifixion from Islam.


It will not be wrong to state that Gnosticism was second to none among the heresies of the early period of the Church, being more systematically developed than all the others. The word “Gnostic” was derived from the Greek word “Gnosis” meaning “knowledge”. The followers of Gnosticism4 repudiated the major Christian doctrine of salvation through Christ’s atoning death when they marked the acquisition of secret “knowledge” as the true source of redemption. The idea that believers could acquire salvation only by hearing certain secret doctrines from Jesus did not only officially separate Gnostics from the members of the universal Church, but also made Gnosticism an elitist philosophy sanctifying knowledge more than Jesus’ sacrifice.

As a major heresy, Gnosticism without doubt included several other heretic doctrines and elements. One of the indispensable components of Gnosticism was Docetism, which vehemently targeted the reality of the Savior’s crucifixion by referring to His death as an illusive incident. Docetism posed a serious threat to the teachings of the apostles because it existed in the apostolic era and tried to replace the physical reality with the concept of “appearance”. The result of this replacement was the heretic tenet that Jesus only appeared to have suffered and died instead of experiencing physical pain and death5.

Docetism was perfectly compatible with the fundamentals of Gnosticism, for the refusal of the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion was a natural result of the Gnostic aversion to human flesh 6. This enmity to human body eventually stipulated that the basic Christian doctrine of the Incarnation be despised and spurned along with that of the Savior’s death:

Perhaps the greatest issue diving Gnosticism from mainstream Christianity, in addition to the “secret doctrines,” was Docetism, which is to say, the belief that Jesus did not actually die. Gnostics claimed that Jesus had never actually come in true physical form — for if he had, he'd have been corrupted by the inherent evil of the physical — but that his bodily existence had been merely an illusion. When he was crucified, his spirit fled, so that he never actually died7.

The strength of the ties between Gnosticism and Docetism was apparent in the formulation of the peculiar Gnostic cosmology. The core of Gnosticism was actually the dualism between good and evil, which manifested itself in various forms. The dualist mode of thinking eventually turned the world of the Gnostics into an arena where different pairs were believed to constantly conflict. Of these pairs, material was taught to be evil in contrast to abstractions. This teaching drove the Gnostics to endorse the doctrine that human body was also inherently impure and evil because it belonged to the realm of the material. Consequently, Gnostics began to view Jesus as a supreme Spirit that saved His followers from the imprisonment of their bodies through the revelation of certain secrets:

The unknowable God was far too pure and perfect to have anything to do with the material universe which was considered evil. Therefore, God generated lesser divinities, or emanations. One of these emanations, Wisdom desired to know the unknowable God. Out of this erring desire the demiurge an evil god was formed and it was this evil god that created the universe. He along with archons kept the mortals in bondage in material matter and tried to prevent the pure spirit souls from ascending back to god after the death of the physical bodies. Since, according to the Gnostics, matter is evil, deliverance from material form was attainable only through special knowledge revealed by special Gnostic teachers. Christ was the divine redeemer who descended from the spiritual realm to reveal the knowledge necessary for this redemption. In conclusion, Gnosticism is dualistic. That is, it teaches there is a good and evil, spirit and matter, light and dark, etc. dualism in the universe 8.

It is obvious that none of the Gnostic teachings had any affiliation with Islam or its allegations regarding Jesus’ crucifixion. The argument that Gnosticism illustrated the influence of the particular Islamic teaching regarding the denial of Jesus’ crucifixion has no historical or theological evidence. More to the point, Gnostics did not consider Jesus an ordinary prophet that was miraculously saved from death in the hands of His adversaries, but theologically bound their refusal of the Christian doctrine of crucifixion to the vilification of human body. This naturally resulted in the denial of Jesus’ humanity and in Jesus’ portrayal as a ghost-like divine Savior. In short, Gnosticism tended to endorse Jesus’ divinity, whose human body was only an illusion, in sharp contrast to Islam, which tried to portray Jesus as one of the only-human prophets of the past.

The primary reason for the quick spread and persistent historical presence of Gnosticism in the world was most likely the superficial similarities between major Christian tenets and Gnostic teachings. The distortion of the apostolic teachings and their easy adaptation to certain Gnostic heresies quickened the development and embracement of Gnosticism by some Christians. In most cases Gnostic heresies became products of the ingenious modification of apostolic teachings having strong theological implications. For instance, Gnostics most likely perverted Paul’s statements about Christ’s pre-determined crucifixion in order to justify their false teaching that Jesus redeemed His disciples by revealing to them great secrets and mysteries:

Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:6-10)

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul had associated the concept of mystery and its revelation with salvation in Christ, but Gnostics twisted Paul’s theological implications to reach the conclusion that salvation in Christ was only through the revelation of some secret teachings. What Paul actually meant was that the only means of salvation was Christ’s crucifixion, which had been kept a secret from mankind until the fulfillment of God’s plans of redemption in accordance with God’s wisdom. Paul’s remarks neither denied the crucifixion nor changed the mystery of salvation into the means of salvation.

In other cases the adherents of Gnosticism tried to distort the apostolic teachings about Christ by misinterpreting particular doctrines through extremism. For example, the Gnostic heresy that human body was evil and Christ could not have had a true human body was a deviated and extreme form of the Christian tenet that Christ was the only sinless human as the divine Savior of mankind. Since Gnosticism established a link between evil and human body through its dualist philosophy, Jesus’ incarnation was automatically denied as taking human nature was considered equal to being sinful and impure.

These similarities and differences between Christianity and Gnosticism illustrate how Gnostic heresies owed their existence to the systematic and meticulous distortion of basic Christian doctrines. Nothing in the Gnostic faith and mentality pointed at the supposed influence of Islamic teachings, the motive driving the Gnostics to refuse the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion being incompatible with the fundamental Islamic denial of Jesus’ divinity. This big gap between Gnosticism and Islam and the fact that the Gnostic theological consistency between the rejection of Jesus’ incarnation and that of His crucifixion is missing from the Qur’an lead us to the conclusion that Islam adopted from Gnosticism.


Why did the Qur’an endorse the illusion theory of the Gnostics although it emphasized Jesus’ humanity at the expense of His divinity? This is a rational and challenging question that exposes the hidden ties between Gnostic heresies and the Islamic denial of the crucifixion. At first it is not easy to understand why Muhammad decided to pursue the Gnostic repudiators of Jesus’ passion. While commenting on the Christian sources of the Qur’an, Rev. Clair Tisdall remarks that Muhammad’s adoption of the Gnostic heresy concerning Jesus’ crucifixion was rather haphazard, being a product of his emotional reaction to the Jews:

Muhammad's denial of the death of Christ on the Cross cannot be traced even to such untrustworthy authority as his favourite apocryphal Gospels. It is needless to say that he contradicts both the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles, though doubtless merely through ignorance. It seemed to him to be derogatory to the dignity of Christ to have been crucified and put to death by His enemies; and Muhammad was all the more convinced of this when he found his own enemies, the Jews, exulting at having slain Jesus. Hence he gladly adopted the assertion of certain heresiarchs, with whose views in other respects he had little in common9.

Even though Gnostic heresies had both theological and philosophical reasons to remove Jesus from the cross, the same thing cannot be said about Islam. For Gnosticism, which fundamentally separated the matter (and the flesh) from the soul as a result of its dualist mode of thinking, the endorsement of the crucifixion would have meant a major contradiction to the point of self-denial. In the Qur’an, however, it is impossible to find a single theological or philosophical motive that necessitates the repudiation of Jesus’ passion and His rescue from the cross in the same way since Islam does not promote the Gnostic view that the human flesh is evil.

To be honest, Islam overtly contradicts Gnosticism when it lays emphasis on Jesus’ human nature while objecting to the Christian belief in Jesus’ divinity. In order to reject the tenet of a divine Jesus, the Qur’an once claims that Jesus the Messiah is nothing more than a prophet and focuses on Jesus’ human nature by disregarding the Christian doctrine of incarnation. According to the writers of the Qur’an, Jesus’ act of eating sufficed to prove that He was but a man as a result of His carnal weaknesses:

The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. (Surah 5:75)

Further, the Qur’an contains two narratives of Jesus’ birth & infancy, both of which were plagiarized from the apocryphal Gospels of infancy. The account about Mary and Jesus in the 19th chapter of the Qur’an is a distorted and reworked version of the stories recorded in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Arabic Gospel of Infancy whilst the source of the account in the 3rd chapter of the Islamic scripture is the Infancy Gospel of James10. The incorporation of the non-canonical stories of Jesus’ nativity into the Qur’an is rather odd since these stories represent Muhammad’s betrayal to the fundamental Gnostic doctrines. If a follower of Gnosticism existed and read what the Qur’an teaches about Jesus’ crucifixion, he would definitely label Muhammad a traitor stripping Gnosticism of its essence and distorting it for his personal interests.

In sharp contrast to Gnostic sects, Muhammad did not deny the reality of Jesus’ human nature when he endorsed the Christian doctrine of a miraculous conception. Even though Muhammad misinterpreted Jesus’ miraculous nativity as a result of his failure to understand the Christian identification of Jesus as the Son of God, he confirmed the physical reality of Jesus’ birth from a virgin named Mary. Most Gnostics, on the other hand, considered Jesus’ humanity an illusion as they were at a constant war with tangible things, including the human body. This is why the Gnostic heresies mostly skipped Jesus’ nativity and infancy and presented Jesus as a phantom-like being suddenly appearing in the midst of the Jews in the first century. In an apocryphal writing named “The Acts of John11”, Jesus’ body was asserted to be a vision:

"Sometimes when I would lay hold on him, I met with a material and solid body, and at other times, again, when I felt him, the substance was immaterial and as if it existed not at all. And if at any time he were bidden by some one of the Pharisees and went to the bidding, we went with him, and there was set before each one of us a loaf by them that had bidden us, and with us he also received one; and his own he would bless and part it among us: and of that little every one was filled, and our own loaves were saved whole, so that they which bade him were amazed. And oftentimes when I walked with him, I desired to see the print of his foot, whether it appeared on the earth; for I saw him as it were lifting himself up from the earth: and I never saw it."

As it is clear, in the Gnostic teachings Jesus’ physical death was rather naturally impossible and unthinkable because He was believed not to have a real body. In other words, the rejection of the crucifixion in Gnosticism was a natural outcome of the basic allegation that Jesus was not truly human. If we compare this with the rejection of Jesus’ passion in the Qur’an, we see that Muhammad acted arbitrarily and chose to confine the denial only to the reality of Jesus’ death on the cross. Thus, Muhammad’s strategy of promoting the Gnostic theory of illusion was discriminate, which is evidence for the adaptation of particular Gnostic teachings into Muhammad’s fabricated religion. Gnosticism was the fruit of the distortion of Christian creed whilst the Islamic repudiation of Jesus’ death became the fruit of the perversion of those Gnostic teachings.

At this point, Muhammad’s perversion of the Gnostic heresy becomes clear and the assertion that Gnosticism adopted the denial of Jesus’ death from the so-called pure Islamic message given by Prophet Jesus is evidently rebutted. It was actually Muhammad that embraced particular Gnostic teachings and refused some others, discarding the consistency and systematic of the Gnostic faith. Consequently, Muhammad’s refusal of Jesus’ passion had no strong theological basis as it had lost its connection to the genuine Gnostic teaching that cursed the body and necessitated the interpretation of Jesus’ crucifixion as an illusion.

While seeking an answer to the question why Muhammad chose to deny Jesus’ death on the cross although this denial caused much trouble for him, we notice that the Islamic refusal in view came rather slowly and surprisingly as the Qur’an verses pursuing the Gnostic theory of illusion were written at a late time in the period after Muhammad’s migration to Medina. Interestingly, the Qur’an verses that belonged to the early period of Islam did not refer to Jesus’ crucifixion or His supposed rescue from the cross although they pointed at the Jewish disbelief in Jesus and the relevant religious partition in Israel:

And when Isa came with clear arguments he said: I have come to you indeed with wisdom, and that I may make clear to you part of what you differ in; so be careful of (your duty to) Allah and obey me: Surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serve Him; this is the right path: But parties from among them differed, so woe to those who were unjust because of the chastisement of a painful day. (Surah 43:63-65)

Such is Isa, son of Marium; (this is) the saying of truth about which they dispute. It beseems not Allah that He should take to Himself a ! son, glory to be Him; when He has decreed a matter He only says to it "Be," and it is. And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serve Him; this is the right path. But parties from among them disagreed with each other. (Surah 19:34-37)

It is highly likely that Muhammad was at first reluctant to deny Jesus’ crucifixion since he did not consider it a major threat to his new ideology praising Jesus as a messenger and the Messiah. The idea of rejecting the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion came gradually as a result of Muhammad’s severed relation with the Jews of his era. The more resistance Muhammad received from the Jews, the more he needed to turn his back on them. From this unexpected resistance arose Muhammad’s anti-Jewish sentiments that appeared in various forms. For instance, right after the migration to Medina Muhammad officially initiated his anti-Jewish campaign with the help of a few verses that blamed the Jews for distorting the sacred scriptures on purpose. This was related to Muhammad’s new aim to present the Jews as unreliable and treacherous people that did not respect their own scripture and faith. Forgetting that his god had asked him in Mecca to consult the “Jews” as the readers of “the Book” (Surah 10:94), Muhammad claimed that the Jews were dishonest people because they concealed the truth in their scripture and perverted their book:

Have ye any hope that they will be true to you when a party of them used to listen to the word of Allah, then used to change it, after they had understood it, knowingly? (Surah 2:75)

Therefore woe be unto those who write the Scripture with their hands and then say, "This is from Allah," that they may purchase a small gain therewith. Woe unto them for that their hands have written, and woe unto them for that they earn thereby. (Surah 2:78)

And lo! there is a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture. And they say: It is from Allah, when it is not from Allah; and they speak a lie concerning Allah knowingly. (Surah 3:78)

Muhammad later speeded up his accusations by recurrently labeling the Jews as a disbelieving community that persecuted and murdered God’s chosen servants (messengers and prophets alike). Although Muhammad failed to identify one single Israelite messenger that had been murdered by the Jews12, he delighted in portraying the Jews as infidels thirsting for the blood of the messengers:

We made a covenant of old with the Children of Israel and We sent unto them messengers. As often as a messenger came unto them with that which their souls desired not (they became rebellious). Some (of them) they denied and some they slew. (Surah 5:70)

Verily Allah heard the saying of those who said, (when asked for contributions to the war): "Allah, forsooth, is poor, and we are rich!" We shall record their saying with their slaying of the prophets wrongfully and We shall say: Taste ye the punishment of burning! (Surah 3:181)

Is it ever so, that, when there cometh unto you a messenger (from Allah) with that which ye yourselves desire not, ye grow arrogant, and some ye disbelieve and some ye slay? (Surah 2:87)

Strikingly, this campaign of accusation gets us closer to the solution of the Islamic puzzle about the rejection of Jesus’ crucifixion and reveals the mysterious ties between Gnostic heresies and Islam. After making use of the martyrdom of the Israelite prophets in the hands of the disbelieving Jews to validate and support his anti-Jewish sentiments, Muhammad argued that the Jews had been cursed by David and Jesus:

Those who disbelieved from among the children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of Dawood and Isa, son of Marium; this was because they disobeyed and used to exceed the limit. (Surah 5:78)

Muhammad’s anti-Jewish campaign would finally culminate in the slandering teaching that the Jews called Ezra the Son of Allah and worshipped their rabbis, which served Muhammad’s objective to make Jews equal to the other polytheist communities:

And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away! They have taken their doctors of law and their monks for lords besides Allah, and (also) the Messiah son of Marium and they were enjoined that they should serve one God only, there is no god but He; far from His glory be what they set up (with Him). (Surah 9:30-31)

Continues on Part II