Zakir Naik: Crucifixion or Crucifiction?

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Did Jesus die on the cross?

Video reference 

Welcome to Defender’s Voice. Today, I would like to talk about the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection. As a starting point, I would like to refer you to a video clip of Dr.Zakir Naik in which he rejects the crucifixion. I gave you the link to this video below. You can watch it later. In this video, a  Christian young man asks Dr.Naik a straightforward question. 

“My name is Mahesh. I work as a customer service officer in Dubai. I am a born again Christian. My question is, ‘How confident is Islam that it is not deceived by Satan that Jesus was crucified for all our sins?

One of the foundational beliefs of Islam is that Jesus did not die on the cross. The resurrection of Jesus is irrelevant because Jesus did not even die. 

Zakir Naik responds with Surah 4:157 

Let me quote this verse: 

Yusuf Ali: That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-

The verse says it all. Jesus was not killed. He was not crucified. It was only made to appear that he was crucified. Let appearances do not deceive you. Christianity is false because it believes in the literal death of Jesus. Islam is true because it believes only in the apparent death of Jesus. 

Then, Dr.Zakir Naik says, 

Zakir Naik: “Quran is confident, without a single doubt, that Jesus Christ (PBUH), he was not killed, neither was he crucified, it was only made to appear so, all those who differ are full of doubt. As far as I being a Muslim is concerned, I am 100% confident because Quran says that but to make you also confident, I can prove it to you from your Bible, that Jesus Christ (PBUH) was not crucified so that you will come to know that it was not Muslims who were deceived but it is so called Christians who believe that Jesus was crucified (PBUH) and deceived. I you read the Bible, it is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew 12:38

38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 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. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.

Zakir Naik continues, “Jesus Christ, PBUH, puts all his eggs in one basket. I shall give you no sign but the sign of Jonah.” Dr.Naik tells the story of Jonah. Jonah was traveling to Nineveh. His ship was caught in a storm. The sailors wondered why their ship was caught in the storm. Finally, they realized that Jonah was the reason and threw him overboard. Then, Zakir Naik asks the Christian boy 

“When Jonah was thrown overboard into the storm, was Jonah dead or alive”

Christian boy mumbles and replies, ‘I am not sure’. 

Dr.Naik then rebukes this Christian young man, ‘Even a small child from Sunday School knows the story of Jonah. How come you don’t know?….the devil is deceiving you. 

I love Jesus Christ more than you. I follow his commandments more than you. I know the commandments of Jesus more than you. The devil is deceiving you. I want to take the devil away from you.”

“I am 100 percent confident. Why are you afraid of the truth when Jesus Christ is with you.” 

“You show me any verse in the Bible which says that Jonah was dead when he was thrown alive, I will accept Christianity. Your devil is not even allowing you to answer the truth. I challenge you, open the book of Jonah. It says, Jonah was alive’.Was Jonah alive when he prayed or dead?” 

Zakir Nair contends that Jonah did not die. 

Zakir Naik concludes with his famous question, ‘Crucifixion or Crucifiction?’ 

This is very interesting. There are so many things here to unpack. Let us go one by one. 

First, Zakir Naik went directly to the story of Jonah from Matthew 12:38 

Let us see Matthew 12:38 

A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 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.

Here, unbelieving Jews were prodding Jesus for a sign. ‘Jesus, show us a sign’. Jesus was tired of them. Because they would not believe the message of Jesus. They were only interested in the miracles of Jesus. They did not receive Jesus’s message. Jesus told them, ‘Repent and turn away from your sins and accept me as your Messiah’. But they did not receive Jesus nor His message. They asked, ‘Jesus, show us some signs’. They are only interested in signs to be entertained. Jesus was not interested to entertain them. He told them, ‘Look, you want signs from me. I am not going to do any more signs before you. I did so many miracles already. I fed 5 thousand people with five loaves of bread. I gave sight to the blind, voice to the mute, legs to the disabled, I healed demon possessed men and women,  I calmed the storms, I raised people from the dead. After all these miracles, you still do not believe in me. What is the use of miracles? But, let me tell you one thing. I am going to do one last miracle. The greatest miracle of my ministry. That is just like Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, I will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” 

The Christian interpretation is, Jonah was thrown into the sea. Then he was swallowed by a whale-like creature. He stayed three days and three nights in the belly of this creature. What happened during those three days and three nights? Was he dead or alive? The Bible is not clear. There are two possibilities. First, he might have been dead those three days and three nights, and then God brought him back to life. Then he realized his situation and prayed to God. Second possibility is he might have been miraculously preserved in the belly of the beast by God’s special intervention. Whether he had been dead or alive, either way, it was a great miracle from God. 

   Imagine Jonah was thrown into the water. He died immediately. Then the whale swallowed him. After three days and three nights, he was brought back to life by God while he was still in the belly of the beast. Then he prayed to God and God delivered him. He was spit out by the fish, then he walked and preached God’s message to the unbelievers. This beautifully typifies the death, burial and resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died, then buried, and after three days and three nights, He was brought back to life by God. Just like Jonah, Jesus went and preached to his disciples. 

  In the second possibility, let us say Jonah was alive those three days and three nights, it was still a great miracle of God. He did not perish in the bottom of the ocean, but delivered by God miraculously. This scenario also typifies the burial and resurrection of Christ because the ‘heart of the earth’ could not bind the Son of God. He came out alive. This is not a literal type, because Jonah was in the bottom of the ocean while Christ was in the heart of the earth. 

   Jonah coming alive from the belly of the whale is a great miracle. Jesus coming alive from the tomb is a great miracle. Thus, the story of Jonah fits better as a type of Jesus’ resurrection. Islamic interpretation fails in that regard. 

   Islam says that Allah made to appear that Jesus was killed. So, unbelievers were watching. Jesus was about to be killed. Then Allah rescued Jesus even though people thought Jesus was killed. Here, there is no miracle at all. If that is what happened, there would be no miracle before unbelievers. They were simply deceived by Allah into thinking that Jesus was killed when in fact he was taken into heaven. You cannot insert ‘three days and three nights’ into this scenario. 

So, please note two things. Jesus said, it is going to be the greatest miracle of his ministry. That fits better with Christian faith which says Jesus was killed, buried and raised on the third day. The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest event ever happened in human history and it is the greatest miracle recorded in the Bible. It does not fit Islamic interpretation because there was no miracle before unbelievers if Jesus was abducted by God while those unbelievers were led into thinking that he got killed.  Secondly, ‘three days and three nights’ fits only with Christian interpretation, not Islamic interpretation. 

Most importantly, we don’t have to struggle around the story of Jonah to prove the death of Christ. Lord Jesus Christ made it unmistakably clear that he would go to Jerusalem, there he would be crucified, buried and resurrected. There are many references to establish this truth in the New Testament. Among others, you can check Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 8:31; John 12:23-25; Matthew 27:33-37; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:26-31; John 19:5-6. Every gospel ends with the events surrounding the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ. 

For example, let us see Matthew 20:17-19 

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Here, Lord Jesus told the disciples, ‘Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, there I will be delivered over to the chief priests and teachers of the law. I will be condemned to death, mocked, flogged and crucified. Then, on the third day I will be raised to life’.   

Zakir Naik scolds this Christian young man, ‘You are following the priests and teaching of the church rather than the teaching of the prophet Jesus.’. But the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ are not produced by the Church and Popes. It came directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Also, Let us see Luke 24:6-7 

He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’

On Sunday morning, the Angels told the visitors to the tomb, ‘Jesus is not here. He is risen. Remember what he told you in Galilee. He must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ 

The disciples and other followers of Jesus remembered the words of Jesus, they saw resurrected Christ and they preached about it throughout their ministry. The resurrection of Christ was the foundation of apostolic preaching. 

Zakir Naik brags, ‘I can prove Christian is false right from your Bible’. But his claim that he can prove that ‘Jesus was not crucified’ right from Christian Bible is hilarious. What he is saying is complete nonsense. There are prophecies in the Old Testament which were fulfilled in the death of Christ. For example, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 were about the coming crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus himself predicted his crucifixion. His apostles witnessed it and preached about it. 

Then Zakir Naik asks, when was Jesus Christ put on the cross? 

The Christian boy answers, ‘Friday’. 

Zakir Naik asks, ‘If Jesus was buried on Friday, how do you account for ‘three days and three nights’ if he rose again on the Sunday?’ 

This is a fair question. The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus was raised on Sunday. He was crucified on the day of the Passover. The Bible it does not tell us which day of the week he was crucified. The Passover floats around the week. Sometimes, it falls on Friday, sometimes on Thursday, sometimes on Wednesday. If Jesus was crucified on Thursday, you got 3 days and 3 nights. You got part of Thursday, full day of Friday, full day of Saturday. You got three days….. Then, you got Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night. You got three nights. There is no discrepancy here. 

  If you take Jewish customs into account, you can reconcile this even with Friday crucifixion, because for Jews, even part of a day is considered a day. It is true even in our time. If I came to your home today, had lunch with you, stayed for the night, and tomorrow had lunch with you and left your home. I can say, ‘I spent two days with you’. Literally speaking, I spent only 24 hours with you, from today’s lunch time to tomorrow’s lunch time. But customarily speaking, I can say, ‘I spent two days with you’. So, ‘three days and three nights’ does not have to mean three literal 24 hour days. ‘Part of Friday, Full Saturday, and part of Sunday’ can be clubbed into three days and three nights. It was Jewish tradition. Matthew 16:21 says, 

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” 

Note those words: On the third day be raised. He was raised on the third day. Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Friday crucifixion fits well into this verse. 

Zakir Naik deceives Muslims

So, Zakir Naik is the one deceiving Muslims by claiming that Jesus was not crucified on the cross. The Bible clearly states that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. We also have extra-Biblical sources that attest the fact of crucifixion. 

Jewish Tamud states, “on the eve of Passover Yeshua (Jesus) was hanged”

Jewish historian Josephus wrote, “there was a wise man who was called Jesus…Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die”

Thallus, a Palestinian historian wrote, as early as AD 52, “darkness which accompanied the crucifixion of Christ”. 

A Syriac manuscript by Mara bar Serapion, now in the British Museum, London, from AD 73, says, “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished”. 

Roman historian Tacitus wrote in his Annals, “Christ, who was executed under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius” 

These are non-Christian writers. Many of them did not even like Christian religion. But, they made it clear that Jesus was indeed crucified by the Romans. 

So, Muslims should know the truth. We love Muslims. The problem is individuals like Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat have been telling them lies. Muslims should come to the knowledge of Christ. The real Jesus is in the Bible, not in the Quran. Jesus came to this world, died for your sins and rose again on the third day. Now the Corona pandemic is going around the world. Thousands of people are dying every day. Imagine the hope you will have if you believe in Jesus who conquered death. He is the real Messiah. If you die today, you will be with Jesus in heaven. Islam cannot give you such hope. If you put your faith in Jesus, your sins will be forgiven, and one day, God will raise you from the dead and invite you to heaven. Peace!