The life and death of Jesus Christ (pbuh)

Farukh Ahmed Arshad, Murrabi Silsila UK

The Holy Quran affirms the virgin birth of Jesus, and repudiates the notion that Mary was not pious and that her birth was illegitimate. The Quran narrates Mary’s statement to an Angel Moreover, it is upon the account of her piety that Chapter 19 of the Holy Qur’an is named after her and all pious Muslims are likened to her.

“How can I have a child when no man has touched me and neither have I been unchaste?”

Holy Qur’an 19:21

The virgin birth of Jesus was a miracle, no doubt. But according to the Ahmadiyya Muslim view, miracles always work in accordance with the laws of Almighty God, no matter how limited our understanding of those laws are.

Modern science has only just begun to study this rare phenomenon. For example, in lower animals rare instances of virgin births have been well documented, representing a complete surprise to zoologists. There are even reports albeit scattered of ‘Fatherless human conceptions’. Of course, research continues and the mention of these phenomena is only given here to demonstrate that what was once considered impossible can indeed be plausible.

While the term “Son of God” has been used in reference to Jesus a.s, it should be noted that God has used this title for many of His chosen ones.For example, God, in the Old Testament refers to David by saying: 

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you'”

Holy Bible, Psalm 2:7

Furthermore, in a New Testament genealogy, Adam is listed as the:

“Son of God”

Holy Bible, Luke 3:38

In fact, some may argue that Adam a.s could have a greater claim over the “Son ship of God” because, unlike Jesus a.s, he had neither an earthly father nor mother. In order to reconcile these references and many others, it is not unreasonable to conclude, that the Biblical usage of the term “Son of God” does not necessarily connote a literal “son ship to God” but a metaphorical one instead.

This metaphorical understanding is furthered by Jesus’ own words and actions. Jesus is known to have engaged in many human devotional activities such as fasting and praying. But perhaps the most significant evidence is that Jesus claimed to lack knowledge of the future because, as he claimed, only the Father possessed perfect knowledge.

“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

The Holy Bible, Mark 13:32

This is especially notable since Christian doctrine holds the view that Jesus’ nature is a “hypo-static union”. That is, he was “fully divine” and “fully man” at the same time. If this were true, then he should have at no point denied his own omniscience. These, in addition to other philosophical considerations, lead one to question the Biblical term “Son of God” and its literal application to Jesus a.s.

The Holy Quran narrates several miracles of Jesus, including his ability to create birds, to cure ailments including blindness and raise the dead to life:

“And will make him a Messenger to the children of Israel (to say): ‘I come to you with a Sign from your Lord, which is, that I will fashion out for you a creation out of clay after the manner of a bird, then I will breathe into it a new spirit and it will become a soaring being by the command of Allah; and I will heal the night-blind and the leprous, and I will quicken the dead, by the command of Allah; and I will announce to you what you will eat and what you will store up in your houses. Surely, therein is a Sign for you, if you be believers.

Holy Qur’an, 3:50

Ahmadi Muslims interpret these particular signs metaphorically. The people who accepted Jesus soared high like birds into the spiritual firmament above worldly, base concerns. Similarly in the metaphoric sense, he restored sight to the spiritually blind and life to the spiritually dead.

Jesus a.s, himself called the enemies of his day “blind” because of their hypocritical nature in matters of faith (Matthew 23:26). The very nature of his words about healing convey a spiritual change, not physical. It should also be remembered that Jesus spoke in parables, such as the famous line:

“Let the dead bury their dead”

Holy Bible, Mathew 8:22

The Holy Quran also describes disbelievers as deaf, dumb and blind in chapter 2 verse 19, and The Holy Prophet (PBUH) offered them ‘life’ and revival from such death:

“O ye who believe! respond to Allah, and the Messenger when he calls you that he may give you life”

Holy Qur’an, 8:25

Indeed, it is difficult to insist on the literal interpretation of all Biblical miracles. Even the authoritative Harper’s Bible Commentary goes as far as to recommend that the following miracle relating to the resurrection be ignored:

The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people

Holy Bible, Mathew 27:52-53

The Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad a.s, expounds upon the significance of these verses in his landmark book, Jesus in India. He explains that the Bible is actually relating the details of a spiritual vision and in the language of visions, if anyone sees that the dead have come out of the graves and have made for their homes, the interpretation is that a prisoner would be released from his bondage, and that he would be rescued from the hands of his persecutors.” Incidentally, this interpretation is also corroborated by Gustavus Miller’s book, ‘10,000 Dreams Interpreted’.

Ironically, while Christian scholars were advising against deriving any value from certain verses of the Bible, a Muslim, who claimed to be the Promised Messiah, would come to the Bible’s defence by illustrating some of the metaphorical beauties it contained. Furthermore, it should be remembered that Elijah also raised the dead to life:

“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord! My God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived”

Holy Bible, I Kings 17:19-22

It is difficult to make an argument about the divinity of Jesus a.s, therefore, unless one considers Elijah also divine. The argument that Jesus did the miracles with his own power, whereas God worked through Elijah, is contradicted by the New Testament itself:

“Ye men of Israel hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you”

Holy Bible, Acts 2:22

The geographic scope of Jesus’ mission was confined to where the Israelites lived. Jesus even said:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”

Holy Bible, Mathew 15:24

The Israelites followed the Torah, and Jesus came to revive the true spirit of the Torah in the hearts of the Israelites and clear any misunderstandings. He was a follower of Moses and did not change or reject the Mosaic Law. The New Testament states Jesus came only to fulfil the Law and not abolish it:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

Holy Bible, Mathew, 5:17

Of the twelve tribes of Israel, only two remained in their homeland. The remaining ten tribes became known as the lost tribes or lost sheep of Israel, since they never returned back home. Most of the tribes settled in Afghanistan, northern India, and as far as China. Therefore, it was thus imperative for Jesus to minister in these areas by travelling there.

Today, there is a good body of evidence showing that certain peoples of Afghanistan and India and neighbouring areas are of Israelite heritage. This is based on their own written and oral traditions, physical features, language, folklore, monuments, and customs. Most even call themselves ‘Bani Israel’ or ‘children of Israel’.

Jesus prophesied that his fate would be like that of Prophet Jonah. Jesus said:

“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”

Holy Bible, Mathew 12:39-40

The sign of Jonah is related in the Bible as:

“The Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry”

Holy Bible, Jonah 1:17 and 2:1-2

The sign given to the Ninevites by Jonah was he was saved from certain death. He stayed for a period of time in danger, but ultimately recovered. He went alive into the belly of the fish, stayed alive for days, and came out alive.

The same fate was prophesied for Jesus. He would enter the tomb alive, stay alive for days, and come out alive. If Jesus had died, there would be little resemblance to Jonah a.s. The story of Jonah is one of survival — not revival.

When it appeared that there was no way to avoid the devious plans of the Jews to have him crucified, Jesus prayed fervently ‘to remove the cup’ of death upon the cross:

“Abba, Father,” he said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Holy Bible, Mark 14:36

Jesus had full confidence that his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane would be accepted as he himself told his disciples:

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer”

Holy Bible, Mathew 21:22

“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. You parents- if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Of if they ask for fish, do you give them a snake?”

Holy Bible, Mathew 7:7-9

The prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was the most important and grand prayer offered by Jesus and portrayed quite vividly in the Gospels. It is inconceivable that the prayer did not reach the Divine Throne, especially as Jesus taught his disciples the power of prayer. Indeed we need not guess. The Gospels furnish evidence that his prayer was accepted.

The Gospel of Luke states an angel came from Heaven:

“Strengthening him”

Holy Bible, Luke 22:43

This indicates God had heard his heart-felt prayer. After his supplication in the garden, when Jesus was apprehended, one of his followers drew a sword, struck a servant of a high priest and cut off his ear. Jesus sternly rebuked him and said:

“Those who use the sword will be killed by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?”

Holy Bible, Matthew 26:52-53

This shows Jesus was now in perfect contentment that his prayer was accepted and all could be left now in the hands of God, with no need for active self-defence. Finally, when death looked imminent and he was in agony on the cross he cried:

“Eli, Eli lama sabachthani”

Holy Bible, Mathew 27:45-46

Because he did not expect that it would come to this. He fully believed the prayer would be accepted. It is notable in the New Testament testimony that Pontius Pilate believed Jesus to be innocent and did not want him executed. One of the influences was a dream Pilate’s wife convincing her of Jesus’ innocence, and the message she passed on to Pilate was:

“Leave that innocent man alone”

Holy Bible, Mathew 27:19

Pilate eventually acquiesced to the demand of the Jews that Jesus be crucified, as a riot was developing. However he then asked for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd and exclaimed:

“I am innocent of the blood of this man. The responsibility is yours!”

Holy Bible, Matthew 27:24

An analysis of the Gospels clearly reveals Pilate had an interest in saving Jesus’ life to the best of this ability while trying to maintain official execution procedure as mandated by Roman law. Three key points may be noted:

  • He set the crucifixion day just before the Sabbath, as Jewish law specifically prohibits bodies to hang on the cross by the start of Sabbath. Death would be unlikely to ensue within 6 hours.
  • When the time came to remove Jesus and the two others on the cross, the Jews asked Pilate to break the legs of Jesus (John 19:31). However the centurions acting on Pilate’s command did not break the legs of Jesus (John 19:33). It was because he had taken these precautionary measures that Pilate was surprised when he was told that Jesus was “already dead” (Mark 15:44).
  • Roman protocol was that body would lie on the crucifixion grounds and be subjected to the elements and animals. However Pilate allowed something quite interesting to take place by deviating from standard practice. He allowed Jesus to be given to Jesus’ friends not his enemies.

After Jesus supposedly ‘died’ on the cross a Roman soldier made a decision not to break the legs of Jesus while on the cross. The episode fulfilled a prophecy and was not without meaning.

The Gospel of John (19:36) tells us that the Scripture was fulfilled (based on Psalms 34:20) – a bone of his shall not be broken:

These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”

Holy Bible, John 19:36

The Roman soldier did not bother to break the legs of Jesus to hasten death since he thought he was already dead. Breaking the legs would have been devastating due to the severe trauma of blood loss and consequential hypovolemic shock by breaking one of the larger bones in the body, the tibia, in each leg.

The Scriptural attention to not breaking the legs can only be meaningful if the body was alive – it is a meaningless issue for a corpse. A fuller reading of Psalm 34, verses 19 and 20 underscores it:

“The righteous face many troubles but the Lord rescues them from each and every one. For the Lord protects them from harm – not one of their bones will be broken.”

Holy Bible, Psalm 34:19-20

An important piece of information is mentioned in the Gospel of John which supports the view that Jesus did not die on the cross:

“One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water”

Holy Bible, John 19:34

Blood pouring out is a sign of intact circulation, with the spear injuring an arteriole. Note the words ‘sudden flow’ which implies blood pressure. The ‘water’ was perhaps pleural fluid, present between the rib cage and lungs.

As blood does not rush out of corpses, the quoted verse did present a problem to at least one Church Father, Origen. In his exegesis of John 19:34, he admitted that blood coagulates after death, but the flow of blood in this case constituted a miracle and thus needed no explanation.

Contra Celsus, by Origen, translated by H. Chadwick, Cambridge U

The spear thrust into the side of Jesus was not meant as a kind of definitive blow, but as a rough (and actually inaccurate) indicator if death had occurred. If the intent were to kill, the soldier would have stabbed into the front of the chest to injure the heart. However, in the event the person was not on the cross for sufficient length of time, death was usually caused by breaking the legs, as was done with the individuals hanging alongside Jesus.

The Gospel testimony it should be pointed out is inconsistent on the point of the centurion wanting to ensure the death of Jesus. On the one hand, the centurion saw that Jesus was ‘already dead’ so he did not bother to break his legs. As against the demand of the Jews to hasten death by breaking his bones on account of the Sabbath (John 19:31) which was the standard protocol. On the other hand the centurion pierced Jesus’ side. Was this done to cause death if he was uncertain about it? If so, why were the bones not broken also which was the standard, brutal method? How can we not assume there were some elements of sympathy from at least some of the Romans, starting from Pilate on top and going down the chain of command?

It is alleged the Romans executioners were cold, brutal and blood thirsty experts in the art of putting people to death. Not only do we have some inconsistency in actions documented on the part of the centurion, we also have what appears to be a very sympathetic Roman officer and even a closet follower of Jesus, as marked by his words when he was looking on at the cross when Jesus supposedly died:

“Truly this man was the Son of God”

The Holy Bible, Mark 15:39

After the crucifixion, the body of Jesus came into the hands of his disciples Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

The Gospel of John records that Nicodemus brought myrrh and aloes ‘about a seventy-five pounds in weight’:

“He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.”

Holy Bible, John 19:39

These plants, particularly aloe plants, are considered medicinal and applied to wounds. It was used extensively in many ancient cultures is used even today to soothe open wounds. The Roman physician Pedanius Dioscrorides (c 75 B.C) recommended aloe for wounds and skin conditions. Alexander the Great’s mentor, Aristotle, persuaded him to capture the island of Socotra to harvest the aloe plants for treating wounded soldiers.

Interestingly, the medieval near eastern classic textbook of medicine entitled Canon of Medicine by Avicenna mentioned an ointment termed Marhami Isa (Ointment of Jesus).

After the crucifixion, Jesus came under the care of his devoted followers who brought him into a spacious tomb. If a man survived the death punishment, we would expect such a person to show clear evidence of the wounds. We would expect him to keep a low profile and move away from the place of crucifixion, as there may be the chance of re-arrest. Fear would be exhibited by his followers out of concern for their master.

The Gospel testimony leads precisely to that conclusion.

Jesus shows his wounds to Thomas:

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Holy Bible, John 20:25-7

Showing he did not have a supernatural, resurrected body, but a patient’s body. He hurriedly travelled away from the locality of the crucifixion and chose to meet only his closest followers:

“Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there”

Holy Bible, Matthew 28:10

The followers of Jesus were frightened to the extent that they decided not to tell anyone about his emergence from the tomb:

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid

Holy Bible, Mark 16:8

Not once did Jesus appear before his persecutors or wandered through the centre of Jerusalem asking people now to accept him as the resurrected Messiah who had atoned for their sins. All we have is a man in his earthly body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39) who suffered pangs of hunger (Luke 24:41) and staying out of the lime-light. In convincing his disciples that he had the same wounded body, he in effect was showing he never died as God saved him from the ordeal just as Jonah emerged alive from the fish.

Traditional Jewish history and Biblical texts divided this Semitic people into twelve tribes. In the time of Jesus, only two of the tribes were in the region Jesus preached, whereas the whereabouts of the remaining ten has always been a bit of a mystery.

The second century historian Josephus wrote in his book Antiquities of the Jews that the ten tribes were ‘beyond Euphrates’ in his time, east of present day Iraq and in the Persian empire of the time which extended into India.

It is also notable that early Church history documents the existence of a Gospel in the Hebrew language found in India, which also confirms Israelites in India. St Jerome (c 400 A.D) wrote that the scholar Pantaenus in the second century came across the document in his travels. St Jerome further wrote that the Israelites in his time continue to live in the Persian Empire.

The mission of Jesus was to reach out to the Lost Tribes (or ‘Sheep’) of Israel, as stated in The Bible It was thus imperative for him to migrate to the east:

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

  Holy Bible, Matthew 15:24

The mass of evidence showing that the peoples of Afghanistan, north-west India (particularly Kashmir) and neighbouring areas are of Israelite ancestry continues to grow. Their physical features, language, folklore, customs and festivals attest to their Israelite heritage. Evidence also come from the names they give to their villages, their monuments and ancient historical works.

Some pilot genetic studies on peoples in India who to this day call themselves ‘Bene Israel’ or ‘Children of Israel’ confirm their Middle Eastern origin.

 

First century A.D Northern India was a vast center of not only Hinduism, but also Buddhism. The Israelite peoples whom Jesus ministered to in these areas were in a minority practicing Judaism, but it is likely many adopted the indigenous faiths of Hinduism and Buddhism also. It is possible to trace Jesus’s footprints in these lands from some of these texts.

The ancient books of Hindus are called Puranas. One book, Bhavishya Maha Purana (written in Sanskrit) contains an account of a king of India, Salivahana meeting “Isa-Masiha” (Jesus the Messiah)- a religious personage of fair complexion who was a foreigner.

Buddhist texts contain a prophecy of future Buddha, a bodhisattva, named ‘Bagwa Metteyya’ a Pali phrase which literally means “fair-complexioned”, or “white traveller”. The etymological resemblance of the word “Metteyya” to “Messiah” is established and one meaning of the word “Messiah” is traveler.

As the sun of Christianity did rise in India with Jesus’ personal advent in the area, many teachings of Jesus became interwoven with Gautama Buddha’s teachings. Even certain parables as recorded in the New Testament became attributed to Buddha, such as parable of the sower which is found in Buddhist texts.

It has been proposed that the word Yuz Asaf, the name of the person entombed in Kashmir, is derived from Buddha Asaf, as Jesus would have been included in the Buddhist pantheon of saints. The term would thus mean a Buddha who rallied people, or gathered the flock of the true faith.

The burial place of Jesus in Kashmir is known to the locals as Rauzabal, meaning the Honored Tomb. It is known as the tomb of Yuz Asaf, which may be of Buddhist derivation (see link) or possibly from Yusu or Yehoshua (Jesus) the Gatherer.

Local tradition states that the entombed was a prophet of Ahle-Kitab, or People of the Book, and his name was Isa – the Quranic name for Jesus.

The prophet Yuz Asaf came to Kashmir from the West (Holy Land) in the reign of Raja Gopdatta (c 1st century A.D) according to the ancient official documents held by the current custodian of the tomb.

Some of the most extensive research on the tomb has been conducted by the now retired famous historian and former Head of Archaelogy for State of Kashmir, Professor Fida Hassnain.

The tomb is Jewish, as attested by the direction the grave is lying. Next to the grave is a footprint engraved in stone, an artistic rendition of the wounds of crucifixion.

Jesus found acceptance in the lands of the Lost Tribes, and completed his mission by travelling eastward to these ancient Israelite communities.

One objection is, if Jesus spent most of his life in India, why is that part of his life so unknown and forgotten?

One has to keep in mind the phenomenon of what happens to a religion’s presence when another religion takes over. For instance modern day Afghanistan was a vast center of Buddhism and had some of the largest statues of Buddha in the world carved in stone. That faith has now vanished there. Another example are the pagan religions of Europe prior to Christianity arriving there.

The Israelite peoples of Afghanistan and Kashmir accepted Islam. Jesus had foretold the coming of messenger after him, the Paraclete of the gospels, fulfilled in the person of Holy Prophet Muhammad.

With time, the old faith of Christianity was forgotten over generations so that now there are mainly ‘orthodox Muslims’ in these same areas holding beliefs as other ‘orthodox Muslims’.

However, remnants of the followers of Jesus Christ still exists in the vicinity of Herat, Afghanistan. The British scholar O.M Burke in his book ‘Among the Dervishes’ has described these peoples. Though they are now Muslims, they did not forget their Christian legacy. They have a special attachment to Jesus and refer to him as ‘Yuz Asaf the Kashmiri’ who came to preach to them.

Thus the death of Jesus can be proven with Rational, historical and medical references and also the Holy Bible declares and gives full proof of his survival from the cross.