Monday, 4 March 2019

The Absurd Substitution Hypothesis (Part 2)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the previous entry, I discussed the contradictory accounts recorded in various medieval Islamic exegeses regarding the so-called substitution hypothesis, i.e., that someone else was crucified instead of Jesus the Messiah because his appearance was supernaturally transformed. In summary, some accounts say that it was a volunteer, a faithful disciple of Jesus, and others that it was a hypocrite or enemy of Jesus among the Jews. Such a great discrepency is sufficient to dismiss this fairy tale which has absolutely no historical basis but was likely imported into Islamic discourse from the heretical Gnostic Docetists. According to the heresy of Docetism, Jesus of Nazareth was not a real, flesh and blood human being, but only appeared to be human, being a phantasm of some kind. I should also mention here that these same accounts contradict each other regarding the alleged physical, bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven. According to some, he was raised from a hole in the ceiling of a house, while others state he was raised from a mountain. It should be duly noted that none of these stories are substantiated by the actual text of the holy Qur’an or the authentic Hadith of the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam).
As already stated, I subscribe to the swoon theory. But a common objection raised against the swoon theory from an Islamic perspective is that the holy Qur’an says:
وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ
They did not kill him or crucify him
(Sura 4:157)

So if the Messiah was even placed on the cross for a few hours and survived without having died, such a notion still directly contradicts the Qur’an which explicitly states “they did not crucify him”. Now our answer is that the meaning of “they did not crucify him” is that they did not kill him on the cross. According to dictionaries, the verb crucify means: “to put to death by crucifixion”. It never means to suspend someone from a cross without that person being killed. In other words, if someone was placed on a cross but survived and was taken down alive, by definition he was not crucified. This is certainly true in the Arabic language. The classical text Lisan al-Arab even gives the Ayah (4:157) as an example where ma salabuhu means ‘nor did not put him to death by crucifixion”:
والصلب هذه القتلة المعروفة مشتق من ذلك ؛ لأن ودكه وصديده يسيل . وقد صلبه يصلبه صلبا وصلبه شدد للتكثير . وفي التنزيل العزيز : وما قتلوه وما صلبوه
والصلب هذه القتلة المعروفة
“Put to death in a certain well known manner” (Taj al-Urus v.3 pp.203-205; Lane’s Lexicon v.4 p.1713):

Another possible explanation is that the Qur’an denies the idea that the enemies of the Messiah first killed him then hung his corpse on a cross as a means of humiliation, as it occurs in the New Testament “whom ye slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 5:30, KJV)
Interestingly, one of the narrations of the substitution hypothesis states that the lookalike was first killed then crucified, i.e., his dead body hung on the cross:
حدثنا أحمد بن سنان الواسطي ، ثنا أبو معاوية ، عن الأعمش ، عن المنهال بن عمرو ، عن سعيد بن جبير ، عن ابن عباس ، قال: لما أراد الله تعالى أن يرفع عيسى إلى السماء، فخرج على أصحابه وفي البيت اثنا عشر رجلا من الحواريين يعني فخرج عيسى من عين في البيت ورأسه يقطر ماء، فقال: إن منكم من يكفر بي اثنتي عشرة مرة بعد أن آمن بي، قال: أيكم يلقى عليه شبهي فيقتل مكاني ويكون معي في درجتي فقام شاب من أحدثهم سنا فقال له: اجلس ثم أعاد عليهم فقام الشاب فقال: أنا، فقال: أنت هو ذاك، فألقي عليه شبه عيسى ، ورفع عيسى من روزنة في البيت إلى السماء، قال: وجاء الطلب من اليهود فأخذوا الشبه، فقتلوه ثم صلبوه
(Tafsir Ibn Abi Hatim, p.1110, no.6233):

So even the medieval exegetes understood that the meaning of ‘they did not kill him nor crucify him’ is that he was not killed first and then his lifeless corpse placed on the cross. However, the more accurate meaning of this verse is that Allah first makes a general denial of the Messiah having been killed by his enemies, and a specific denial of him having been killed by them by means of crucifixion. As for the words:
وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا
And they did not kill him for certain

This is to emphasize the fact that the Messiah was not killed in any way by his enemies. However, it could also means that they were not certain in their killing of him, meaning even they were doubtful whether they really killed the Messiah or not (Tafsir Ibn Jarir):
حدثنـي الـمثنى، قال ثنا عبد الله بن صالـح، قال ثنـي معاوية بن صالـح، عن علـيّ بن أبـي طلـحة، عن ابن عبـاس، قوله { وَما قَتَلُوهُ يَقِـيناً } قال يعنـي لـم يقتلوا ظنهم يقـيناً. حدثنـي الـمثنى، قال ثنا إسحاق، قال ثنا يعلـى بن عبـيد، عن جويبر فـي قوله { وَما قَتَلُوهُ  َقِـيناً } قال ما قتلوا ظنّهم يقـيناً

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