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Jesus, Crucifixion, Bible, Talmud, Intertextuality
Over the centuries, there has been almost a consensus among Muslims and non-Muslims that the crucifixion of Jesus is denied in the Qur’an, mainly because of al-Nisāʾ 4:157. This overwhelmingly accepted interpretation has been challenged in recent times, albeit by a small minority of scholars, by suggesting novel interpretations of 4:157 and seeking support from history and other verses. This study first reviews how, from the early days of Islam, denying the crucifixion of Jesus was always seen by both Muslims and non-Muslims as the established Islamic view. It analyses the theological arguments of the minority view, promoted by some early Ismāʿīlī scholars and modern scholars, that the Qur’an does not deny Jesus’ crucifixion. A new attempt, which has been gathering some support, linking 4:157 to the Talmud is then critiqued. This study shows that the immediate context of 4:157 and the broader Qur’anic narrative also refute the new interpretation. A detailed linguistic analysis of the verse in question further shows that it cannot be reasonably read to mean anything other than rejecting that Jesus was crucified. In summary, history and a detailed study of 4:157 and related verses show that there is hardly any basis to justify challenging the centuries-long semi-consensus that the Qur’an denies the crucifixion of Jesus.
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72 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ISL AM AND SOCIE T Y 40:1-2
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FATOOHI: THE NON-CRUCIFIXION VERSE 73
33 Todd Lawson, The crucifixion and the Qur’an: A study in the history of Muslim thought
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74 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ISL AM AND SOCIE T Y 40:1-2
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54 Cole, “‘It was made to appear to them so’”, 12.
55 Leirvik, “Jesus in modern Muslim thought”, 141; Oddbjørn Leirvik, Images of Jesus
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57 Mevorach, “Qur’an, crucifixion, and Talmud”, 12.
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FATOOHI: THE NON-CRUCIFIXION VERSE 75
66 Origen, Against Celsus. trans. Frederick Crombie, The Ante-Nicene Fathers IV (New
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70 Aaron W. Hughes, “Arabian Judaism at the advent of Islam: A forgotten chapter in
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71 For an excellent critique of the popular tendency to uncritically trace Qur’anic texts
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72 Parrinder, Jesus in the Qur’an, 120; Michael G. Fonner, “Jesus’ death by crucifixion
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76 Al-Ṭabarī (Jāmiʿ al-bayān, 135.) agrees with al-Suddī that the dialogue in 5:116, in
which God quizzes Jesus about whether he asked people to take him and his mother as
two deities, happened after God raised him to heaven, not on the Day of Resurrection.
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77 Isaac Kalimi, “The story about the murder of the prophet Zechariah in the Gospels
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78 Gabriel Said Reynolds, “On the Qur’ān and the theme of the Jews as ‘killers of the
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79 Al-Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-bayān, vol. 7, 650-660.
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76 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ISL AM AND SOCIE T Y 40:1-2
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82 Ignatius, Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans. trans. Kirsopp Lake, The Apostolic Fathers
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83 For other quotes from Ignatius, see Michael Goulder, “Ignatius’ “Docetists””, Vigiliae
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84 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin
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85 Roger A. Bullard and Joseph A. Gibbons, “The Second Treatise of the Great
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86 Parrinder, Jesus in the Qur’an, 119; Ayoub, A Muslim view of Christianity, 160;
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87 Gunnar Samuelsson, Crucifixion in antiquity: an inquiry into the background and significance
of the New Testament terminology of crucifixion (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck,
88 John Granger Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean world (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck,
2019), 452. See also Craig Evans, “Hanging and crucifixion in second temple Israel”,
in ed. Jörg Frey, Carsten Claussen, and Nadine Kessler, Qumran und die Archäologie:
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89 David W. Chapman, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion
(Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 32.
90 For a detailed discussion of what the Qur’an says about Jesus after the crucifixion,
see Fatoohi, “The End of Jesus’ Life in the Qur’ān.”
91 Angelika Neuwirth, “Qur’an and history — a disputed relationship: Some reflections
on Qur’anic history and history in the Qur’an”, Journal of Qur’anic Studies 5 (2003),
no. 1: 4.