Many people think Jesus was raised from the dead. They think he lives in the skies with God. Some think he never really died. The numbers of people who have thought this way, down through the centuries, runs into many billions. There may be over two billion who think this way even now. A large number of these people are non-Christians.
Many others are convinced that Jesus died 2,000 years ago and is still dead. Christians are included in this group.
An examination of the views of those who think Jesus is alive, and those who don’t, shows they have different ideas about God and His purpose. They also differ in their view of Jesus’ relation to God.
Christians see in Jesus the answers to the nature and purpose of God. Non-Christians do not find their answers satisfactory.
For example, most Muslims see Isa as a prophet. Most Christians claim he is God.
However, most Muslims, like Christians, believe Jesus to be in the skies, waiting for the proper time to return to earth.
Even in this there are vast differences. For instance, while most Christians expect Jesus to take them to heaven and put them in power, the Muslims expect him to put them (the Christians) in hell fire.
What really is the case? Is Jesus dead or not? If he escaped death on the cross, how? If he is dead, what sustains contrary ideas? Why has God Almighty permitted such confusion? What purpose in Him does this serve? Can we go to the same controversial scriptures Muslims and Christians use and get a better answer than what they have? Even if it is better, can it be decisive? Can any answer be beyond doubt?
Let us go to the Holy Qur’an. Why? It verifies the Bible’s truth. Muslims understand that the Bible’s teachings are such that it should be seen and judged or evaluated in the light of what the Holy Qur’an teaches. This includes, of course, Jesus’ death.
The following are the places in the Holy Qur’an concerning the fate or death of Jesus. If we go by the famous Muhammad Ali translation of the Holy Qur’an into English, those places are 3:51-54; 4:157-159; 5:116-118. These verses appear in the following larger context referring to Jesus, 3:41-62; 4:153-162; 5:109-120.
I’ll use the English translations of nine scholars. I’ll also use some of their notes to enable you to get a clearer idea of what they saw.
Going by the numbering of verses in the Muhammad Ali translation we read in verse 51 that Jesus “perceived disbelief” on the part of those to whom he was preaching his message. From the context one gets the distinct idea that this particular perception occurred towards the end of his mission. Further, one gets the idea that this disbelief, or resistance to Jesus, reached a point of intensity that became crucial. Jesus’ enemies were about to make an all out move to take his life. It seems to have be come crucial in God’s eyes too.
We read that Jesus’ enemies planned. So did Allah. He planned in such way as to make their plans against Jesus serve His (Allah’s) purpose, verse 54 reads: “When Allah said: ‘O Jesus, I will cause thee to die and exalt thee in My presence and clear thee of those who disbelieve and make those who follow thee above those who disbelieve to the day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, so I shall decide between you concerning that wherein you differ.’ ”
Verse 55 reads: “Then as to those who disbelieve, I shall chastise them with severe chastisement in this world and the Hereafter, and they will have no helpers.”
The believers are promised a great reward by Allah in the next verse. Then in verse 59 we read: “(This is) the truth from thy Lord, so be not of the disputers.” We are told by Allah in verse 61 that what we have just read of Jesus is the true account.
Here are other translations of verse 54. The translator’s name is given first, then his translation.
Yusuf Ali: “Behold! Allah said ‘O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehood) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the day of Resurrection. …’ ”
Abdul Majied: “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. …’ ”
Sher’ Ali: “When Allah said, ‘O Jesus, I will cause thee to die a natural death and will exalt thee to Myself, and will clear thee from the charges of those who disbelieve. …’ ”
Nazir Ahmad: “When Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will cause you to die and exalt you in My presence and clear you of those who disbelieve. …’ ”
Geoffrey Parrinder: “Recall when God said: ‘O Jesus, I am going to bring thy term to an end and raise thee to Myself, and purify thee from those who have disbelieved. …’ ”
J. M. Rodwell: “Remember when God said, ‘O Jesus! Verily I will cause thee to die, and will take thee up to Myself and will deliver thee from those who believe not. …’ ”
A. J. Arberry: “When God said, ‘Jesus, I will take thee to Me, and will purify thee of those who believe not.’ ”
A. Maududi: “(It was to carry out His secret plan that) He said, ‘O Jesus, now I will recall you and raise you up to Myself and cleanse you of (the uncongenial company and the filthy environment of) those who have rejected you. …’”
It should be clear to you that these various translators understand Allah’s words differently. Now let us look at their notes, where given.
In note #436 of his translation, Muhammad Ali makes clear that he understands Allah to be saying that “the Jewish plans to cause Jesus’ death on the cross would be frustrated and that he would afterwards die a natural death. …” This is his basic comment on the Arabic words which he translates, “I will cause thee to die. …”
In his notes on the words, “and exalt thee in my presence,” he writes that the Arabic word (which he translates to mean “exalt”) signifies “raising or elevating, and also exalting or making honorable.” His note, #437, contains his reasoning for not using the first or even both meanings of the Arabic word, which he takes as meaning exalting, making honorable in degree and praise. On one hand he thinks that to under stand the Arabic word to mean “raising or elevating” is not correct, in this context, “for raising a man in his body to Himself (to Allah) implies that the Divine Being is limited to a place.”
On the other hand, he claims that even other commentators “who are predisposed, having, no doubt, been misled by Christian tradition, to accept Jesus Christ as having been raised alive to heaven” have been compelled to admit that the Arabic word in that verse is not used for raising in the physical sense, “but for exalting and honoring.”
More next issue, Allah willing.