20 April 2017

The Flesh Died: Clarity Between The Quran & Gospel

Let us explore ancient messages and find out if they actually agree or disagree.

The caveat in doing so is, despite evidence historical and empirical, the matter of faith (believing something to be true) is sadly not something that can sometimes be logically or rationally attained.

With this in mind, let us look at the Gospel and the Quran regarding Christ (Yeshua / Jesus / Isa) and the issue of Christ physically dying, resurrecting and rising into heaven.

It seems both testimonies are in agreement, but not as men have been told.

The 'issue' is that the death and resurrection testimony is refuted among atheists and most religious groups outside followers of Christ; groups of people including the majority of Muslims (or mainstream Islamic doctrine).

Certain Islamic scholars have already arrived at the conclusion that there is no textual message issue, but one of interpretation regarding Jesus' death.

Not everyone is a scholar or even researches the things they believe in beyond what they are taught / told to believe among their religious circles.

In focusing on certain points from the Gospel and Quran, I'm not going to discuss the entirety of the source verse, but simply the issue already mentioned.

Looking at the Gospel first:
I Am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me—just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father—and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and One Shepherd. The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.” 
- John 10: 14-18
It is common mainstream theology that Christ died for the sins of the world (those specifically who would believe), and rose again to life on the third day.

Looking specifically at the part of Christ laying down and taking up His life, we see it expressed in terms of Jesus' choice.

We also see the word “command”, which seems to convey an order or rule from the Father.

We read Christ express there is a choice in laying down His life, and then mentions it to be a command from His Father.

Is the Father commanding Jesus to die, or is the command expressing Christ having authority to make the choice?

Please read the passage from John 10 again.

Now turning to the Quran (while not going into whether it is inspired or not in this article), and knowing the Arabic name / word for Jesus is “Isa”, let us read:
Recall what time Allah said: O 'Isa! verily I shall make Thee die, and am lifting Thee to Myself and am purifying Thee from those who disbelieve, and shall place those who follow Thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection; thereafter unto Me shall be the return of you all, then I shall judge between you of that wherein ye were wont to differ. - Al Imran 55 (Quran 3.55, Daryabadi translation)
There is much to derive from this verse, but we're going to focus on the first part.

While not every English translation of the Quran uses the phrase “make Thee die” when translating the Arabic transliteration “mutawaffika” in this particular verse, it is has been argued in scholarship that the translated term means “cause thee to die” in every other context found in the Quran.

For further insight, please read this exploratory by Islamic scholar Geoffrey Parrinder.

As to what men have explained regarding verse 3.55, notice how such explanations are not explicit in the Quran, but are elaborated at length with human efforts.

There are several explanations and opinions regarding 'who' died in place of Jesus (according to Islamic beliefs).

But we see an order depicted in 3.55...read it again.

Looking at another verse from the Quran regarding Jesus' death, let us read:
And for their saying: verily We have slain the Messiah 'Isa son of Maryam, an apostle of Allah, whereas they slew Him not, nor they crucified Him but it was made dubious unto them. And verily those who differ therein are in doubt thereof, they have no knowledge thereof; they but follow an opinion; and surely they slew him not. - An Nisa 157 (Quran 4.157, Daryabadi translation)
In context, verse 4.157 is talking about the supposed boasting of the Jews regarding what they did to Jesus, or what they believe to have done to Jesus; kill Christ.

Is the issue “they but follow an opinion” talking about Jesus being alive after their attempts to kill Jesus?

Is it an issue of faith that Christ rose to life after being killed, or did they doubt that they killed Jesus?

The crucifixion was obvious; the death witnessed by Jews, Romans, disciples of Jesus and others.

The issue mentioned in 4.157 seems to be about Jesus being alive after being publicly executed.

I think this is why the point is stressed in 4.157 that they did not in fact kill Jesus, and were wrong in thinking they succeeded in their plans.

Christian, Roman and other secular sources from antiquity have confirmed the historicity of Jesus' death.

The existence of Jesus, and the crucifixion, has been a hotly debated issue in scholarship that has been resolved with near-universal acknowledgement.

How then can verse 4.157 be brought in line with the Gospel and what the Quran literally states regarding Jesus and death?

A prominent Islamic scholar, Mahmoud M. Ayoub, wrote the following:
The Quran, as we have already argued, does not deny the death of Christ. Rather, it challenges human beings who in their folly have deluded themselves into believing that they would vanquish the divine Word, Jesus Christ the Messenger of God. The death of Jesus is asserted several times and in various contexts. (3:55; 5:117; 19:33)
Verse 4.157 seems to be expressing how some had the wrong idea when thinking they could kill the Word of God and Spirit of God (Jesus / Isa).

Theologically speaking, it was the flesh that was killed and perished, not the Word and / or Spirit of God, which are eternal.

However, just as in the case of Lazarus in the Gospel, and other writings in Islamic literature, Jesus rose Lazarus to life after being dead four days.

It was then the flesh that was pierced and perished, while the Spirit and Word of God continued despite the flesh.

The flesh was made alive again by the authority Jesus was commanded to have by the Father.

Considering the faithful stance that Jesus rose from the dead and proceeded into heaven shortly thereafter, verse 4.157 then makes logical sense when focusing on the argument denying Jesus continued to live after being killed.

For further interpretation and understanding dilemmas regarding Islamic views of Jesus' death, look here.

Now looking at 3.55, this testimony is then complimentary to the Gospel declaration that it was God's plan all along to allow Jesus to die, and then raise Jesus up:
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” 
- Acts 2: 22-24
The Jews and Romans of that time thought they killed Jesus forever, but what they didn't understand (and many people still don't Today) is that Jesus was witnessed alive after being dead and later rising up into the sky.

This is the testimony of the Gospel, of which the Quran seems to agree with when clearly interpreted according to the prior writings of the Torah and Gospel.

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