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Qur'an 4:157: Did Jesus die on the cross?

For most Muslims Qur’an 4:157 is evidence from the Qur’an that Jesus was not crucified and that he didn’t die. To understand the meaning of this verse, we should read the context of this verse:

“The People of the Scripture ask you to bring down to them a book from the heaven. But they had asked of Moses [even] greater than that and said, "Show us Allah outright," so the thunderbolt struck them for their wrongdoing. Then they took the calf [for worship] after clear evidences had come to them, and We pardoned that. And We gave Moses a clear authority. And We raised over them the mount for [refusal of] their covenant; and We said to them, "Enter the gate bowing humbly", and We said to them, "Do not transgress on the sabbath", and We took from them a solemn covenant. And [We cursed them] for their breaking of the covenant and their disbelief in the signs of Allah and their killing of the prophets without right and their saying, "Our hearts are wrapped". Rather, Allah has sealed them because of their disbelief, so they believe not, except for a few. And [We cursed them] for their disbelief and their saying against Mary a great slander, And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.” (Qur’an 4: 153-157).
Look carefully what is meant by “they” in Qur’an 4:157. In the previous verses, Qur’an 4:153-156 is explained what is specified who are “they”. Qur’an 4:153 is talking about the Jews. Therefore Qur’an 4:157 is saying that the Jews did not crucify Jesus. See also the following Qur’an verses that it were the Jews:

Quran 4:153: “The People of the Scripture ask you to bring down to them a book from the heaven. But they had asked of Moses [even] greater than that”.

Quran 4:154: “We said to them, "Do not transgress on the sabbath", and We took from them a solemn covenant”.

Quran 4:155: “Their killing of the prophets without right and their saying, ‘Our hearts are wrapped’".

Quran 4:156: “[We cursed them] for their disbelief and their saying against Mary a great slander”.

Quran 4:157: “And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary".

The meaning of Qur’an 4:157 is that the Jews (Children of Israel) did not crucify Jesus. They used other methods for execution such as stoning. It were the Romans who used execution for criminals. “And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them” in Qur’an 4:157 is saying that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus. It looked like that was the case. God gave Jesus the command to obey God’s will till death and to be the perfect and divine sacrifice for the sin of mankind. It was the divine plan to rescue mankind by the glorious Savior, Jesus Christ, according to the words of the prophets.
Many Muslims are saying that someone else was crucified. They say that it was not Jesus who was crucified and that it only appeared to the people that Jesus was crucified. The Qur’an is not providing information who that person was and no identity is given of this person. It is a person who volunteered to impersonate Jesus and allowed himself to be crucified in his place [1]. So this should be a person with a very high moral standard and higher than the faultless Jesus, the Word of God. This replacement of Jesus, who is better than Jesus should be a contradiction in the Qur’an, because Jesus is faultless (Qur’an 19:19) and of extreme dignity in this world and the other world (Qur’an 3:45).
Therefore the only explanation of Qur’an 4:157 is that Jesus was crucified by the Romans and not by the Jews and that he died on the cross. This seemed to be the biggest possible defeat of any prophet or messenger of God who has all power. However the death of Jesus was not the end, because God raised him from death and this is the sign that the glorious Jesus Christ had made a triumph over the Jewish unbelievers. This is a great victory of the Most High, who has all power:

“And the disbelievers planned, but Allah planned. And Allah is the best of planners” (Qur’an 3:54).

This is supported by another Qur’an verse:

“And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive." (Qur’an 19:33).

The order of this Qur’an verse is (1) born, (2) died and (3) rose alive [2]. In this way the Qur’an confirms the Bible about the fact that Jesus was crucified, died and resurrected. The Jews did not kill Jesus (Luke 23:24-25), Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:33, Matthew 27:35-38) , died on the cross (Mark 15:37-39, John 19:32-33) and resurrected (Luke 24:34). Because Jesus Christ is risen, his death is the perfect sacrifice for and purity [3].


Notes:

[1] Dr. Ibrahimkhan O. Deshmukh, The Gospel and Islam, GLS Publishing, Mumbai, 2011, 230-231.
[2] Mark Beaumont, Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis Of Christian Presentations Of Christ For Muslims From The Ninth And Twentieth Centuries, Regnum Studies In Mission, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2005, 24-25.
[3] Mark Beaumont, Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis Of Christian Presentations Of Christ For Muslims From The Ninth And Twentieth Centuries, Regnum Studies In Mission, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2005, 87.

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