What Does Islam Teach about the Death of Jesus?

By Dillon Burroughs

Christianity is built on the foundational belief that Jesus died and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The Qur'an frequently mentions Jesus, calling Him a messenger of Allah or one of the prophets (Sura 5:75). What does Islam teach about the death of Jesus?

Sura 4:157 in the Qur'an is key to understanding the Muslim view of the death of Jesus. It reads, "That they said [in boast], 'We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah'; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not." According to this authoritative Muslim teaching, Jesus did not die on the cross, but it only appeared that He did.

Then what happened to Jesus according to teachers of Islam? Muslim interpreters themselves are divided regarding the end of Jesus' earthly life. Sura 19:33 teaches, "So peace is on me [Jesus] the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life [again]"! Yet most Muslim scholars teach that this phrase "raised up to life [again]" will take place at the second coming of Jesus when He sets up an Islamic kingdom. As Sura 3:55 teaches, "Behold! Allah said: 'O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee [of the falsehoods] of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.'" What is clear is that the Qur'an teaches Jesus will return to earth at the end of time.

Another view is that Jesus did not die on the cross but was taken up or translated to Heaven where He now dwells with Allah. It is believed He will someday return and initiate an Islamic rule over the world.

The irony is that though the Qur'an is uncertain how Jesus died, it contradicts the known historical facts regarding His death by crucifixion. His death was not only recorded in all four Gospels and other New Testament books, but was mentioned in historical documents from ancient times such as Josephus and Tacitus. Further, there is no credible alternative to the view of Jesus dying on the cross. To believe Jesus was not the person on the cross is to suggest that His closest followers and own mother did not recognize Him, nor did those who put Jesus to death. Further, if Jesus was "replaced" on the cross, who was His replacement?

No adequate alternative exists other than the biblical account that Jesus died on the cross. The question is whether He rose from the dead on the third day. If He did, He both fulfilled prophecy and proved His power over death as the Son of God, something that leads us to believe in Him by faith and receive eternal life (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). Further, those who have placed their faith in Him are called to love Him and others (Matthew 22:37-40) as well as to urgently share His message with all who will listen (Romans 1:16; Matthew 28:18-19).

Image: Still from The Passion of the Christ

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Published 3-19-12