“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 impail him; but it was made to appear to them so. Those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no certain knowledge of it, but only follow conjecture. For certain they did not kill him.” (Qur’an 4:157)
This is in response to a sincere Christian seeker who had asked me this question.
I hope that this article is useful for Muslims who may be asked this question from our Christian brothers and sisters.
The comment is as follows:
“Good morning! I love your research but thoroughly disagree. If JC’s death and resurrection were a fraud, why wouldn’t Rome and the Sanhedrin crush His following? Further, why would all his disciplines minus one die a martyr’s death for a hoax? Thanks for your thoughts!”
So this article/entry is not only for our Christian friends but for Muslims who encounter this line of questions from their sincere Christian friends and colleges.
A popular argument that used by Christian apologists like Mike Licona, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas Lee Strobel and other’s is the question:
“Would They Die For a Lie?”
There are some assumptions being made here:
The first assumption is people would not die for a lie.
The second assumption is that people who die for a cause actually died for a cause that was true to begin with.
Do you know anyone would die for a lie?
People do not knowingly die for lies.
So in the middle of a heated debate, someone asks you this, and your put on the spot and you say, “No!”
There is an assumption by this question that the person being asked knows the details of every human being that ever existed. None of us know except Allah.
So a question to counter this one is ‘Would people knowingly die for a lie‘?
Many people would also assume that this question would be No.
However, let’s create a believable scenario.
You are a soldier in the U.S high command and a dangerous virus breaks out in a laboratory and starts spreading through the facility. This virus is extremely deadly and will eventually kill all it comes into contact with, including you. You know this and you know that if you come into contact with this virus you will die. That being said, your particular facility must shut down and your team is responsible for shutting down parts of the facility that will contain the virus. The men and women on your team know what is at stake and you can see they are quite nervous. They began to inquire and ask about their own safety or your own exit strategy.
The high command tells you to tell them that there is a vaccine that will be administered to them. High command then tells you, “Johnson we are counting on you if you and your team do not shut down the facility not only will you die but it will spread to the population centers…….”
You begin to think about your wife and children and how much you love them. You look at your team. There is Elizabeth she’s only 23 and just got married surely she deserves a phone call to her husband to tell him how much she loves him. However, you know once you do this she will not be able to focus on her task at hand. You have strict orders from high command. Your team manages to shut down the facility, but only after the entire department had been exposed to the virus. No help is coming and there is no vaccine. You knowingly die for a lie.
Now there are a lot of ways to rip through my own argument above. For example, people would exclaim but it was a noble thing to do!
The response that is:
Well then that just says people may be willing to die for a lie if they believe it has a greater agenda or can bring about greater good now, doesn’t it?
He knew that he was doing to die, so he didn’t die for a lie! There was an element of truth in his dying. However, it still does not escape the fact that he knowingly died for the lie that there was a vaccination on the way.
What kind of a question is it to ask if people would knowingly die for a lie? It would have to assume that the person knows if it is a lie or not. Because if the apologist presses you and says ‘Well, in this case, he does know it is a lie‘ and then you bring the scenario above to their attention and they still object you have to wonder about their own honesty and intentions.
Do people die for lies? Yes! Do they know that they are lies Yes in some situations and No in other situations? So the argument does not apply. We could simply leave the discussion at that.
However, let’s press further. Let’ see how truly consistent is Christian logic and argument.
The Prophet Muhammed (saw) had companions. These companions fought in wars and died for the faith of Islam. They believed that the Prophet Muhammed (saw) was a messenger of God. Would they die for a lie?
…………”BUT AH HA!” Says the Christian. “I Gotcha now!” “You see that is my point exactly!” “They believed that he was a messenger of God, just like the disciples believed that Jesus rose from the dead and they died for this belief...”
Again the Christian is not making any arguments just bold assumptions with no proof. It looks like an argument, it is cleverly disguised as one but it is not.
Here is why.
Let’s say tomorrow I want to start a movement among my fellow Muslims and I claim that Ali (ra) is a Prophet. My fellow Muslims may ask me did he ever claim to be a Prophet? I reply, “Where did he say he wasn’t?” They start giving me examples to show that he couldn’t be. I manage to come up with ways to counter these points.
So I then bring the most devastating point in my debate with fellow Muslims who deny that Ali (ra) is a Prophet. I say to my opponents. “Would the Sahabah (his companions) die for a lie?” “Would they go into battle and die for Islam, and some of them even tortured if Ali (ra) was indeed not a prophet?”
However, let’s stop right here!
The opposition would then ask me some of the following questions.
Here are some very good questions I could be asked.
#1) How do you know that they indeed died? If I respond with legends about their alleged deaths how do I substantiate it?
#2) How do you know what they (the companions) believed about him? Surely they may have died for convictions but do we really know what convictions they held?
#3) Did these sahabah (companions) write any documents, and if so did they claim that they wrote them, or is this from the latter tradition ascribed to them?
My opponent would see that I am using a very weak argumentation.
My arguments would start to crumble rather quickly in the face of such scrutiny.
So let us apply this standard to the Christian question.
#1)How do we know how the alleged disciples of Jesus died?
#2) Where is the source material?
#3)How accurate is this source material?
#4) How do we know the theological beliefs they are alleged to have had?
“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these, The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholemew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.” –(Matthew 10:2-4)( Mark 3:14:19)
We are already being overly charitable assuming that the above documents are credible in what they report.. One of the things I think any Christian should find strange is how little space the Bible gives to the twelve apostles. A few prominent ones such as Peter and John get more attention, but most of them vanish completely out of history after being named, with readers never being told anything else about them or anything they did. It is remarkable how unimportant most of the apostles seem to be in the Bible.
#1) Judas Iscariot-According to the Bible, either committed suicide by hanging (Matthew 27:5) or fell down and exploded (Acts 1:18) or as the ‘non-official gospel‘ created by Gleason Archer, William Arndt and John H Hayley state: “he was hanging and then suddenly the rope snaps and his gut burst open.” I think I’ll just leave it at that. Point being he is not a martyr.
#2) John not said to be a martyr is reported to have died of old age (exceptionally old according to some traditions)and why not? Noah lived an exceptionally old age did he not?
#3) James, son of Zebedee: Killed by Herod (Acts 12:2).
“And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.” So apparently he is a martyr. But do we know the beliefs that he had? Did he write anything?
#4) Simon Peter– He is alleged to have died by being crucifixion upside down!
Some Christians like to fancy that (John 21:18-19) alludes to Peter’s death by crucifixion so here we go.
Taken from a Christian web site:
“The Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.” In this book, we find a description of Peter and Paul. Toward the end, we find Peter and Paul in front of Nero, and we pick up the story there:
“Both Peter and Paul were taken away from the presence of Nero. And Paul was beheaded on the Ostesian road. And Peter, having come to the cross, said: “Since my Lord Jesus Christ who came down from the heaven upon the earth was raised upon the cross upright, and he was destined to call to heave me, who am of the earth, my cross ought to be fixed head down most, so as to direct my feet towards heaven; for I am not worthy to be crucified like my Lord.” Then having reversed the cross, they nailed his feet up.” Amazing how accommodating people who persecute you can be!
So, Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded by Nero. Or were they?
Earlier in the story, we find Peter and Paul in front of Nero with a magician named Simon. To make a long story short, Simon claimed to be the son of God. Nero was inclined to believe Simon, and so Peter and Simon engage in a discussion of whether Simon or Jesus was the son of God. Finally, Simon says that he will prove he is the son of God. He stands on a high place and begins to fly. Nero looks at Peter and says (and I paraphrase) if you can do better than that I will believe in Jesus. Peter closes his eyes and prays “In the name of Jesus” I command the angels of Satan who holding Simon up to be removed.” Simon came crashing down and died. At that point, Nero orders the death of Peter and Paul.
So, did Simon really fly? We would all say no. So, was Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded? Maybe. It is easy to see why this book was not included in the New Testament because people do not fly, but the death stories may be true. The Apocrypha books were not excluded from the New Testament because they were total lies but because they were not inspired and had some falsehoods. Many New Testament scholars believe that the New Testament Apocrypha probably contain truthful accounts scattered here and there amidst the fabricated stories. But which are truthful and which are made up? In this book, it is obvious that Simon’s flight was the product of someone’s imagination. But Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded? That could have happened. And it is easy to believe that Peter would have made the request to be crucified upside down for the reason he did.
Therefore the deaths of Peter and Paul are said to be “according to tradition.” This means that we do not know for certain if it happened that way, but it is the best we have to go on.”
What did the Early Church father Eusebius have to say about these writings?
“Among the rejected writings must also be recognized the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepard, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles, and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seems proper, which some, as I said, reject but which others class with the accepted books“
The 2nd-century text known as the “Clementines” had made Peter the “First Bishop of Rome” and 3rd-century invention gave him a 25-year pontificate-which made it a tad tricky for him to have died at the hands of Nero.
#5 Andrew-Reportedly martyred by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross (“St. Andrew’s cross”). According to legend, he taught a gathered crowd while on the cross and refused their offer to take him down. This information comes from the apocryphal, probably second-century Acts of Andrew.
The so-called ‘Acts of Andrew‘ are spurious according to Eusebius.
#6) Philip- According to the apocryphal and probably fourth-century “Acts of Philip“, died after being hung upside-down with iron hooks through his ankles by the proconsul of Hierapolis. According to this book, before dying Philip cursed his enemies, causing seven thousand people to be suddenly swallowed up by an abyss. In return, Jesus appeared and rebuked Philip for “returning evil for evil”, and told him that he would be admitted to Heaven, but only after being tortured outside its gates for forty days as punishment. (CAN ALL MY PROTESTANT FRIENDS SAY PURGATORY!) Like Andrew, Philip allegedly refused a crowd’s offer of rescue.
The New Advent Catholic encyclopedia calls this work “purely legendary and a tissue of fables” hey but don’t take my word for it check it out!
#7) Bartholomew-This disciple went through some ordeal Indeed. He could have been crucified, beheaded, and even flayed alive before or after suffering one of these two fates!
According to the third-century schismatic bishop Hippolytus, he was crucified in Armenia.
A different tradition claims he was beheaded in India on the orders of King Astreges, who belonged to a demon-worshiping cult.
#8- Thomas: Tradition holds that he was sent to India to preach, where he was killed by being stabbed with a spear. This claim is made by local Indian Christians in an apocryphal gospel called the ‘Acts of Thomas‘, which Eusebius dismissed as spurious and heretical!
The New Advent encyclopedia says that “Little is recorded” of Thomas’ life, and that “it is difficult to discover any adequate support” for the tradition of his death in India. It also notes that the ‘Acts of Thomas‘ presents Thomas as the twin brother of Jesus, which is not accepted by Christians today or in the past and seems to be a Christian/Gnostic-themed variation of a pagan salvation cult that followed twin gods called the Dioscuri.
For those who think that this tradition is true I got some startling news for you. I know very well about the churches in Kerela located in Malabar and believe me it’s not Orthodox and it’s not Catholic! So whatever ‘Thomas’ is alleged to have brought to India it’s not the Christianity you would recognize. Far from it!
#9 Matthew– Conflicting traditions. “Nothing definite is known about his later life“, and it is even “uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom“.
Yet another source says there is conflicting information about whether he was martyred in Egypt or in Persia. “In Africa as the Roman Catholic tradition indicates and there is also a belief that Matthew was martyred in Egypt upon his return from Ethiopia in Africa but this is not certain. There is a which says that tradition that Matthew was martyred in Parthia.”
The manner of his death is unknown, and some churches even say he died a natural death
#10 James-James, son of Alphaeus: Conflicting traditions. There are several people named “James” in the New Testament and early Christian history, and it is uncertain which, if any, should be identified with this apostle. He is often identified with the “James the Less” mentioned in Mark 15:40 as the son of Mary and Clopas, which is fairly uncontroversial. However, the Catholic church also identifies him with ‘James, the brother of Jesus‘, which is not widely accepted by Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches.
If this identification is correct, the Jewish historian Josephus says that James was stoned by the Pharisees. This is seconded by Hippolytus.
However, other sources say that James son of Alphaeus was martyred by crucifixion in Egypt by Jews for disobeying the Torah. This is unlikely since the Jews do not crucify people but stone them.
#11 Jude/Lebbaeus Thaddaeus– Conflicting traditions. It is often said that he went with Simon to preach in Armenia, though New Advent says, “this legend is a late development not mentioned by contemporary historians of that region”.
The Catholic Patron Saints Index says, “he was clubbed to death”; though he doesn’t mention their source.
however, the apocryphal ‘Acts of Thaddeus‘ says, “he died naturally”.
#12 Simon the Zealot- Conflicting traditions. According to Catholic.org, Western traditions hold that “he was martyred in Persia with Jude, usually by crucifixion”, while Eastern tradition says, “he died naturally in Edessa”.
Source: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=241 (take note that this site does not quote its sources)
Other sources, according to New Advent, variously give his place of death as Samaria (Israel), or Iberia (Spain), or Colchis (Georgia), or even Britain. Some sources dispute the crucifixion account
#13 Matthias-(Supposed to be #12 as he fills in for Judas) According to the 14th-century historian Nicephorus, “died by crucifixion” in Colchis, in the modern nation of Georgia.
Alternatively, the 17th-century historian Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont says, “that he was stoned and then beheaded in Jerusalem”.
According to the New Advent Catholic encyclopedia, “all… information concerning the life and death of Matthias is vague and contradictory” “Many apocryphal sources confuse Matthias and Matthew.“
#14 Paul- What about good old Paul? Well, there is information about him above with Peter.
“Concerning the time, place, and manner of his death, we have little certainty. It is commonly believed that, when general persecution was raised against the Christians by Nero, about A.D 64, under the pretense that they had set Rome on fire, both St. Paul and St Peter then sealed the truth with their blood”
(Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke, commenting on Acts 28:31)
“The earliest allusion to the death of St. Paul is in that sentence from Clemens Romanus, . . . which just fails of giving us any particulars upon which we can conclusively rely.”
Source: (Smith’s Bible Dictionary Dr. William Smith, article “Paul“)
#15- What about John Mark you know the alleged Gospel ‘writer‘?
“While preaching to the people in Egypt in AD 68 they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.”
How do we know this? Because Wikipedia quotes it from H.H.Pope Shenouda the Third. In his “The Beholder of God Mark the Evangelist Saint and Martyr.” It would be really interesting to see his sources!
#16-What about Luke the other alleged Gospel ‘writer’?
I did not find any information other than “Luke died at age 84 in Boeotia, according to a “fairly early and widespread tradition.” However, nothing about him being a martyr.
#17- What about Barnabas? Your guess is as good as mine!
So the next time the Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Mike Licona, ask you the question ‘Would they Die for a Lie‘?
Maybe you could reply: “Do you know of anyone who was martyred for the belief that Jesus died and rose from the dead?“
If so whom? Who died? How do you know? What is your source? How do you know the theological positions you claim they had? How do you know they died for the particular theology you claim they did?
For example, as a Muslim, I believe Jesus died. I believe Jesus was impailed. However, I have very different theological views than most Christians.
You would think that if there are such disputes and uncertainties concerning the deaths of the alleged disciples of Jesus, one would wonder about the so-called ‘historical fact‘ of Jesus dying on a patibulum or a double-cross as well!
After all, no one who has offered to show us anyone who claims to be an eye witness of the alleged ‘death of Jesus on a patibulum or double-cross‘ that wrote anything!
I would invite my Christian sisters and brothers to look into these bold claims made by your apologist. In particular, I am speaking to the Protestants and the Evangelicals who make such bold claims.
I would also invite the Orthodox and the Catholic to take a good hard look at their traditions to see how reliable they are in light of the above evidence.
Finally to the Muslims I hope that this gives you the impetus to investigate this issue more thoroughly and to plug up any holes in my arguments so that it is airtight when we present a response to those who are making such bold claims.
Frankly, I am quite disappointed in these debates between Muslims and Christians that I do not find anyone from the Muslim side challenge the Christians on these points.
And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of what they have recognized of the truth. They say, “Our Lord, we have believed, so register us among the witnesses.”(Qur’an 5:83)