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10 - WHY DOES THE KORAN DENY THE CROSS?
CHALLENGE: Not a few Muslims have abandoned Islam and today follow Jesus Christ. There sometimes arise situations for them, however, in which they are tempted to go back into Islam. Is it possible to prepare these converts from Islam for such situations? Are there arguments that can help a former Muslim to never again believe the Koran's denial of the crucifixion of Christ?
ANSWER: Yes, there are such arguments. As is known, the Koran claims that Christ was not crucified, but that it was made to appear to the Jews as though they had crucified the true Christ:
“And (cursed are they, the Jews) for saying: 'Truly, we have killed Christ 'Isa, the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah!' -- Yet they did not kill him, and they did not crucify him, but it was made to appear similar to them. And truly, those who have come to be at variance concerning him are in doubt concerning him. They have no knowledge concerning him, except the following of surmise. And they did not kill him of a certainty, rather Allah raised him up to himself; and Allah was mighty and wise.” (Sura al-Nisa' 4:157-158)
These ideas arose before the time of Islam among Gnostic Christians, who mixed their Christian faith with the religion of Gnosticism. For doing so, they were condemned and rejected by the early church fathers, and declared to be heretical. They composed texts, mostly lost to us today, which were, however, quoted by the early church fathers in their books on heresies. Here we have an example: The Syrian Christian and Gnostic, Basilides, who lived between 125 and 160 AD, was the leader of a school in Alexandria. The church father, Irenaeus of Lyon, wrote about him in his work “Against the Heresies” (book 1,24,4) that he taught:
“Not he (i.e. Christ) suffered, but a certain Simon of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead (cf. Matthew 27:32). This latter was transfigured by him (i.e. by Christ), so that he was taken to be Jesus, and thus was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself had taken the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them. For since he was the incorporeal power, and the Nous (mind) of the unborn Father, he was able to transfigure himself at will, and thus ascended to him who had sent him, deriding them, because he could not be laid hold of, and was invisible to all. …” (Translated from German in: Norbert Brox, "Irenäus von Lyon. Epideixis, Adversus Haereses, volume 1. Fontes Christiani, volume 8/1", 1993 (Herder, Freiburg) page 201.)
This text makes it probable that Muhammad did not himself invent the denial of the crucifixion of Christ, or receive it from Allah. Rather, he passed on what he had heard from such Gnostic Christians. Thus the Koran contains traces of Gnostic heresies from pre-Islamic times. A further example of such traces in the Koran is found in the fragment of a heretical and blasphemous manuscript that today is only available in a Coptic translation. The book is called “The Revelation of Peter”, and was written by Gnostic Christians sometime around the year 200. There one can read:
“(Christ speaks to Peter): 'Come therefore, let us go on to the (vision of the) completion of the council of the immaculate Father. For behold, those will come who will bring upon them(selves) the judgement (that was passed on me), and they will put them to shame. But me they cannot touch. And you, Peter, shall stand in their midst. Do not be afraid! (This I say to you) because auf your cowardice. (page 81) Their minds will be closed, for the invisible one has come to them.' When he had said these things, I saw him as though he was being seized by them. And I said, 'What do I see, Lord? Is it you whom they are grasping, and is it me whom you are grasping? Or who is the one, who is (standing) beside the wood and is glad and laughing on? And is it another one on whose feet and hands they are striking?' The Saviour said to me, 'He whom you see (standing) beside the wood being glad and laughing on, this is the living Jesus. But the one into whose hands and feet they are driving the nails is his fleshly (likeness), which is the 'Ransom', whom (alone) they (can) put to shame. It came into being in his likeness. But look (carefully) at him and me.' But I, when I had looked (and seen enough), said, 'Lord, no one sees you. Let us flee this place.' But he said, 'I have told you that they (are) blind. Leave them alone! But you, see how little they know what th[ey] are saying. (page 82) For the son of their (vain) glory they have put to shame instead of my servant.' But I saw something approaching us resembling him and the one who was standing beside the wood laughing -- he was woven in holy Spirit -- and this is the Savior. And there was a great, ineffable light that surrounded them, and the multitude of ineffable and invisible angels praising them. But I am the one, who has seen him, while he was being revealed as the one who glorifies. And he said to me, 'Be strong! For you are the one to whom it was given to know these mysteries unveiled. For he whom they nailed on (the cross) is the first-born, and the home of demons, and the stone jar (Note: according to a false legend in which Solomon was said to have locked up demons in stone jars), in which they dwell, <the man> of Elohim, <the man> of the cross, who is under the Law. But he who stands near him is the living Saviour, who previously was in him, who had been seized and (yet again) released, who (now) stands in (gloating) joy, because [he] sees that those, who did him violence, are divided among themselves. (page 83) Therefore he laughs at their blindness, because he knows that they are born blind. So then (only) that which is susceptible to suffering will <suffer>, insofar as the body is the 'Ransom'. But him, whom they (had to) release, is my bodiless body. I (myself), however, am the Spirit, that can only be mentally perceived, filled with radiant light. This one you saw coming to you. …” (Translated from German in: Wilhelm Schneemelcher (ed.), "Neutestamentliche Apokryphen. Volume II. Apostolisches, Apokalypsen und Verwandtes", 5th edition, 1989 (Mohr-Siebeck, Tübingen) page 642f)
This blasphemous text presupposes the dangerous and false world-view of the Gnostics: The material world is said to be evil because it was supposedly created not by God, but by a demon (the Demiurge). Only the world of the Spirit is taken to belong to the true and good God. Every person, through knowledge, is said to be in need of freeing his own divine Spirit from the evil material envelope of his body and then is thought of having the ability to unite himself with God.
It can be seen from such texts that the Koran, right down to specific formulations, took over the denial of the crucifixion of Christ from Gnostics. For a former Muslim, these discoveries undermine the authority of the Koran. When he is tempted to return to Islam he can ask himself: Should I believe in something that obviously was not revealed by God, but arose from an intermingling of religions in pre-Islamic times and later entered the Koran?
SAD NEWS: It was not Muhammad who came up with the denial of the crucifixion. He seems to have been led astray by the religious-concoctors of Gnosticism. He did not only take over from them the denial of the crucifixion of Christ, but also indirectly their demonically inspired and false faith that a spirit can change the outer form of a man in such a way that he is taken to be someone else. By so doing, Muhammad once again revealed that he could not clearly distinguish between divine and Satanic revelations.
GOOD NEWS: Christ was truly crucified. He died on the cross for our sins. Even the confused demonic inspirations of the Gnostics cannot separate us from the true and faithful God, who in such a way united us with Himself -- through faith in the atoning sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ -- that He made us to be His children.
TESTIMONY: My name is Hasan and I am a Kyrgyz from Central Asia. I was born and raised a Muslim, but our Islam was strongly mixed with the magical practices of our Moldos. Still during the time of the Soviets, I moved from our mountain village into the capital city. There I did university studies, but did not pass my final exams. Therefore I ended up being a crane operator in construction. One day during work an accident happened and a worker died because of a mistake I did. As a result, I was put into prison, but was allowed to leave prison during daytime. Because of these events I thought a lot about God. At first I wanted to read the Koran. Yet through a fellow prisoner, who was Russian and a Christian, I ended up studying the Bible. In this book I found a mirror of my sins. I well understood that I was lost. Through my Russian friend I met Kyrgyz Christians. They explained to me that the atoning death of Christ on the cross is stronger than my sin, and that Jesus could save me. I tried to believe that, but could not come free from my demonic bondage, the root of which lay in our mixing Islam with magical occultism. One weekend I was able to attend, during the day, a Christian seminar on occultism. When I realized what my Islamic-occultic faith in spirits really meant, I repented, gave up my magical practices, and submitted my life entirely to Christ. I became free of my demonic bondages. Today I testify to other Kyrgyz people how Jesus made my life to be free.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you that you are stronger than demons. Help me to follow you alone and to pay no attention to demons, so that no false teachings will come about as a result of me, such as happened with the Gnostic Christians. Thank you that you died for us on the cross.
QUESTIONS: Which pre-Islamic false teachings are behind the Koran's denial of the crucifixion of Christ? How does this influence your understanding of the Koran?
FOR MEMORIZATION: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 – Words of the Apostle Paul)