Question: I am ministering to a Muslim. How do I share the Gospel with them when they say the Koran says that Jesus didn't die on the cross?

Answer: Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross because of the current rendering of one ayah (verse) Surah 4.157. However, the Koran actually does say that Jesus did die - if it is properly translated from the Classic Arabic, the language it was written in originally.

This is the current rendering of Surah 4.157 -

And their saying: "We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, Mary's son, God's messenger, and they have not killed him, and they have not crucified him/placed him on a cross, and but (it) resembled/was vague/was doubtful to them, and that those who disagreed/disputed in (about) him (are) in doubt/suspicion from him, (there is) no knowledge for them with (about) him, except following the assumption , and they have not killed him surely/certainly.

And in this single solitary ayah, the entire doctrine is based upon the rendering of a one word (wama) – which has been misinterpreted as a negative.

The translation from the original Classic Arabic version reads -

وقولهم إنا قتلنا المسيح عيسى ابن مريم رسول الله وما قتلوه وما صلبوه ولكن شبه لهم وإن الذين اختلفوا فيه لفي شك منه ما لهم به من علم إلا اتباع الظن وما قتلوه يقينا

Waqawlihim inna qatalna almaseeha AAeesa ibna maryama rasoola Allahi wama qataloohu wama salaboohu walakin shubbiha lahum wa-inna allatheena ikhtalafoo feehi lafee shakkin minhu ma lahum bihi min AAilmin illa ittibaAAa alththanni wama qataloohu yaqeenan

4.157 And their saying: "Truly we killed The Messiah, Jesus, Mary's son, “Allah's” messenger”, and that they killed him, and that they crucified him, and certainly they alike, and truly whom they differed in Him, certainly they (are) not in doubt from Him, on account of Him, from knowledge, except to follow the belief, and that they surely killed him.

(Note: Actually it was our sins that crucified Jesus (Isaiah 53:10) and the Gentiles hammered the nails.)

Here we need to first define the Arabic word that has been misinterpreted.

Here is the classic Arabic definition for "ma"...

ما = “ma”

“ma” definition:

Conjunctive pronoun. That; which; that which; whatsoever; what; as; as much; in such a manner as; as much as; as for as; any kind; when; how. Does not, as a rule, refer to reasonable things, but instances to the contrary sometimes occur. It is one of those particles, which, in conditional propositions, govern the verb in the conditional mood; it is frequently a mere expletive. It is also a negative adverb, Not; in general it denies a circumstance either present, or of past, but little remote from the present; it governs the attribute in the accusative, thus it is a negative particle when placed before the perfect as in 53.2; or before a pronoun as in 68.2; or before an demonstrative noun as in 12.31. The particle, when joined to the perfect, denies the past; when joined to the imperfect, the present.

References: An Arabic-English Lexicon, E.W. Lane, volume eight, p. 3016 A Grammar of the Arabic Language, W. Wright, Third edition, volume 2, p. 300 The Dictionary of the Holy Qur’an, 1st edition, Abdul Mannan Omar, pp. 523 - 524 A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran, John Penrice, pp. 135 - 136

As we can see below..."ma", when joined to "wa", is simply a filler-word in this ayah...

وقولهم إنا قتلنا المسيح عيسى ابن مريم رسول الله وما قتلوه وما صلبوه ولكن شبه لهم وإن الذين اختلفوا فيه لفي شك منه ما لهم به من علم إلا اتباع الظن وما قتلوه يقينا

Waqawlihim inna qatalna almaseeha AAeesa ibna maryama rasoola Allahi wama qataloohu wama salaboohu walakin shubbiha lahum wa-inna allatheena ikhtalafoo feehi lafee shakkin minhu ma lahum bihi min AAilmin illa ittibaAAa alththanni wama qataloohu yaqeenan

4.157 And their saying: "Certainly we killed The Messiah, Jesus, Mary's son, “Allah's” messenger”, and that they killed him, and that they crucified him, and certainly they alike, and truly whom they differed in Him, certainly they (are) not in doubt from Him, on account of Him, from knowledge, except to follow the belief, and that they surely killed him.

As witnessed by the plethora of positives in this ayah, the conditional mood is only positive.

Couple this, to the very next ayah, as thus…

بل رفعه الله إليه وكان الله عزيزا حكيما

Bal rafaAAahu Allahu ilayhi wakana Allahu AAazeezan hakeeman

4.158 But “Allah”, He raised Him to Him, and “Allah” mighty, wise.

4.157 & 4.158 tell us of its most likely Biblical source...

This One given to you by the before-determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you having taken by lawless hands, having crucified Him, you killed Him. But God raised Him up, loosing the throes of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. (Act 2.23 - 24)

As we can see, 4.157 & 4.158 are utilizing material from the New Testament.

Thus, context is clear that in 4.157 “wama” is simply governing the verb in the conditional mood – which is positive….NOT negative.

Further, rendering this ayah as a negative would force other Koranic ayahs into contradiction.

As further evidence that 4.157 confirms Jesus’ death upon the cross, all the Koranic crucifixion instances are shown here, which confirm that the Koran always describes a crucifixion event with complete certainty of death…

• 5.33…they will be crucified till death
• 7.124…I will surely crucify you till death
• 12.41…so will be crucified till death
• 20.71…and I will surely crucify you till death
• 26.49…and I will surely crucify you till death

Death through crucifixion is always mandated in the Koran. Thus, there is no reason at all to believe that 4.157 would break this trend… So when we read 4.157 with 4.158 -

But God rose him (Jesus) to Him, and God was/is glorious/mighty, wise/judicious - we can see from these verses, that Muhammad was sharing the Gospel message which he obviously believed or he would not have recommended his followers to read the Gospel as from the Lord. - "The Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord"... 6.68.

In this verse from the Koran, God declares that Jesus is to die -

3.55 When God said: Thus, GOD said, "O Jesus, I am terminating your life, raising you to Me, and ridding you of the disbelievers. I will exalt those who follow you above those who disbelieve, till the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is the ultimate destiny of all of you, then I will judge among you regarding your disputes."

Here the Koran clearly states that God caused Jesus to die and be resurrected from the dead. This is the Gospel that has been prophesied in the Old Testament.

The prophet Daniel declares that – And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, - Daniel 9:26

The Prophet Isaiah tells us the reason why – But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Note that God also states in 3:55, that Jesus’ followers are above those who do not believe the Gospel. Therefore, the persecution of Christians by Muslims who have not believed the Gospel is a great sin.

While the original language of the Koran does state that the Jews did kill Jesus; when we read that in conjunction with Koran 3.55, we see that God caused Jesus to be killed and the Jewish religious leadership was the instrument He used to accomplish His purposes.

Muhammad’s favorite story from the Torah, which he called the “Book of Allah” was the story of Joseph. Joseph’s brothers had betrayed him and sold him into Egypt. When they were all finally reunited, Joseph said to them, “God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me here, but God"…Genesis 45:7,8.

Christians recognize and apparently Muhammad did too, that Joseph is one of the many similitudes of Jesus that are laced throughout the Old Testament. Joseph was sold into Egypt to ultimately save his people from being destroyed in the famine, and God caused Jesus to be betrayed and killed by His brethren to save our souls also by a “great deliverance.” (Genesis 45:7, Isaiah 53 and John 3:16.)

Muslims believe because of the mistranslation of 4.157 that it was not Jesus who died on the cross but an image, or a substitution. Muhammad called Jesus Ruh Allah which means “Spirit of God.” A Spirit of God cannot be killed or destroyed. Jesus is referred to in the Bible as the “image of God.” That is because “No man has seen God at anytime” – John 1:18. Jesus said, “The Father who dwells within Me, He does the works” – John 14:10. “I and My Father are One" – John 10:30. Therefore – “He who has seen Me has seen the Father" – John 14:9. God was operating in Jesus though His Spirit. “God was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself” – II Corinthians 5:19. So even if the Koran was not mis-translated, what Muhammad is saying in Koran 4:157 is that only the image was killed or could be killed, the Spirit of God, Ruh Allah cannot be killed, only the image, the human body, therefore the Jews could not kill Him. There are Muslims who believe that Jesus did die on the cross and they also acknowledge that His soul did not die and that is the correct interpretation.

Today many Muslims try to discredit the Holy Bible saying it has been corrupted. They do this in order to try and explain the contradictions in the Koran, when in fact, many of those contradictions are due to the fact the language has changed. For example, the word in the Koran today for "virgin" was actually "fruit" in the original. Languages can change, but the message cannot be altered or corrupted, because it is kept by the power of God -
"It is the law of Allah which hath taken course aforetime. Thou wilt not find for the law of Allah aught of power to change" (Koran 48.23).

And the Koran also affirms that the Torah, Psalms and the Gospel are also God's word, therefore, the message cannot be altered. -

"We did reveal the Torah, wherein is guidance and a light" ... (Koran 5.44).

"And already have we written in the Psalms after the reminder that the earth shall my righteous servants inherit" (Koran 21.105).

"Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous" 5:46).

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. Psalms 12:6,7

So Muhammad did not view the Bible as being corrupted. He did issue a warning to those who would take God's word and corrupt it, Koran 2:79 - "Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: "This is from God," to traffic with it for miserable price!" The Bible also warns those who would take it upon themselves to alter God's word - Rev. 22:19; but again, because of the Koran's acknowledgement of the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel, Muhammad obviously did not regard the Bible as being corrupted and referred to the Torah as the "Book of Allah." Also, the Bible that existed in Muhammad's day is the same Bible we have today.

Muslims also become defensive when they think that you are trying to convert them, when in fact, Christianity is not a religion that requires conversion, but rather is a relationship with God that is established by faith and acceptance of the Gospel, - that Jesus died and rose again to redeem us from our sins, therefore making it possible for us to enter God's Holy Presence when we die, and to have a closer relationship with Him now in this life. Because Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with God, a pure faith like the relationship God had with Abraham, the "conversion" the Bible speaks about refers to the conversion from a state of sinfulness to sinlessness; which is a reformation of the heart, the transformation the inner man. This transcends any religion and is the desired state that God is seeking for in those who profess to be followers of the One True God of Abraham.

See also our devotional "Be Converted."

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