Chapter 3 begins:
THIRD-PARTY EVIDENCE – “ACCORDING TO . . .”
The amazing thing about the Christians’ sworn affidavits (writings attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is that not a single one of them is duly attested. Not a single one bears the signature, mark or thumb-print of its author in the so-called originals. They now boast of being in possession of over 5000 “originals” of which no two “originals” are identical. Amazing! Little-wonder the Christians themselves label their Gospels as – “The Gospel according to St. Matthew”, “The Gospel according to St. Mark”, “The Gospel according to St. Luke” and “The Gospel according to St. John”.
When Christian scholars are asked why the words “according to” are repeated at the beginning of every Gospel, the obvious implication is that they are not autographed. It is only assumed that they are authored by the names the Gospels carry today. The translators of the “New International Version” have unceremoniously expunged the “According to’s” from the four Gospels in their latest translation. Of the alleged Gospel writers, viz., Matthew, Mark, Luke and John it can be categorically stated that 50% were not even the elected Twelve Disciples of Jesus (pbuh).
It is true that none of the Four Gospels contain a signature from the author, but Deedat’s explanation for the titles of the Gospels is erroneous. Christians do not boast of having over 5000 originals, rather we “boast” of having over 5000 Greek New Testament manuscripts. Each of the Four Gospels can be found in many different manuscripts and so Deedat is wrong to imply that the titles given to the Gospels in any way derive from the fact that we have numerous manuscripts. The titles derive from the fact that each text was known only by its given name from antiquity. The title of a text was often placed on the outside of a scroll so that one could know the contents of a scroll without having to unroll it. If this was done with the Four Gospels it is not surprising that the titles do not appear in the text itself. It is irrelevant that Mark and Luke were not members of the Twelve since that tells us nothing about whether their accounts are historically accurate regarding Jesus’ death by crucifixion. Despite his apparent concern for signed documents, Deedat ignores signed documents which mention Jesus’ crucifixion (e.g., Paul’s Letters, Josephus, Tacitus).
Ahmed Deedat continues:
I dare humbly claim that such unattested documents would be thrown out of hand, in any Court-of-Law, in any civilised country, in just two minutes. Furthermore, one of the alleged witnesses, St. Mark, tells us that at the most critical juncture in the life of Jesus – “All his disciples forsook him and fled”- (Mark 14:50). Please ask your Christian friend, “Does “all” mean all in your language, you Englishman?” (This applies to the North American as well) And he will no doubt say – “Yes!”; “Does “almal” mean almal in your language, you Afrikaner?” And no doubt he will say – “ja!” (pronounced Yaa); “And does “bonke” mean bonke in your language, you Zulu?” And he will say – “Ahe!” This is true of every language. Why not memorise this verse from the Bible in your own dialect? Even in some additional languages?
So the so-called “eye-witnesses” were not really eyewitnesses to the happenings, unless St. Mark is not telling us the whole truth, the “gospel truth”. Yet he is supposed to be speaking under oath! You will agree that a case based on such hearsay evidence would be thrown out of Court, TWICE in two minutes, in any Court-of-Law, in any civilised country; that is TWICE in just 120 seconds flat! But a ghost (dogma) of two thousand years standing, upon which hangs the salvation of 1200 million Christians, should not be summarily dismissed. It deserves a little more circumspection. We will therefore entertain the alleged testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as if they were duly attested.
The analogy of a court of law is only useful in the sense that we are weighing evidence. The historian weighs evidence but he is not restricted by all the rules that apply in a court of law. We need to weigh the evidence for and against Jesus’ death by crucifixion, not ignore it. With that said, Deedat ignores the Gospel of John, where the author identifies himself as the beloved disciple (John 21:24) and witness to Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25-27, 35).
Regarding Mark, Jesus had the last supper with the Twelve (Mark 14:17) and then they went out to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26). After Jesus prayed at Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42) the arresting party came. In this context it is clear that the “all” of Mark 14:50 refers to the Twelve. Jesus had more than twelve followers and this verse says nothing about them. Moreover, it says nothing about where the Twelve were at the crucifixion, which happened hours after the arrest. Mark himself mentions that Peter followed Jesus at a distance to the courtyard of the high priest (14:54). Therefore Deedat is out of line in asserting that if the Twelve witnessed the crucifixion Mark must be lying. Furthermore, Deedat’s disregard for the subtle variations in how “all” is used backfires on him. Luke 23:49 uses the same Greek word (pas) for “all” that Mark 14:50 uses and it reads: “But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things [the crucifixion and death of Jesus]” (NIV). If all always means all then Deedat must admit that the Twelve were eyewitnesses to the crucifixion!
It needs to be pointed out that even if the Twelve did not witness Jesus’ crucifixion there were still plenty of other eyewitnesses we can get our information from (the beloved disciple need not be a member of the Twelve and Luke 23:49 may not be using “all” in the strong sense Deedat thinks is necessary). The Gospels themselves supply the following candidates:
- Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:32-37; Mark 15:21-28; Luke 23:26, 33-34, 36-38; John 19:16b-24, 28-37), including a centurion (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39, 44-45; Luke 23:47).
- Simon of Cyrene (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26).
- A large number of followers, including female mourners (Luke 23:27-31).
- Passersby (Matthew 27:39-40; Mark 15:29-30).
- Chief priests, teachers of the law, elders, and the rulers (Matthew 27:41-43; Mark 15:31-32; Luke 23:35).
- “All the people who had gathered to witness this sight” (Luke 23:48).
- “All those who knew [Jesus]” (Luke 23:49).
- The disciple whom Jesus loved (John 19:26-27, 35).
- Female followers of Jesus, including: Jesus’ mother, Jesus’ mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses, the “other Mary,” Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and other women from Galilee (Matthew 27:55-56, 61; Mark 15:40-41, 47; Luke 23:49, 55; John 19:25-26).
- Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-55; John 19:38-42).
- Nicodemus (John 19:38-42).
Next, Deedat writes:
WHERE DO WE BEGIN?
At the beginning of course! – exactly as the Bible does (“In the beginning. . .” – Genesis 1:1) – just 24 hours before the cataclysmic events of “a thunderstorm; an eclipse of the sun; an earthquake; rocks being rent; the veil of the temple being torn from the top to bottom; graves being opened and sleeping corpses marching through the streets of Jerusalem . . .” as narrated by the Christians’ Witnesses. What a scenario for a billion dollar, record-breaking, film production!
We must not forget that the Jews are in the dock, alleged for the murder of Jesus Christ; and we as Muslims are constrained to defend them against the Christian charge, because justice must be done. Whatever their sins of commission and omission, Allah exonerates them from the charge of murder. He says:
FOR OF A SURETY
THEY KILLED HIM NOT.
(Holy Qur’an 4:157)
PLAYING THE “CRUCI-FICTION” CARD
The Christian world has been unjustly persecuting, and hounding and killing our Jewish cousins for nearly two thousand years for a murder they did not commit. Attempted murder? – may be! But murder? – NO! By absolving the Jew of a crime he did not commit, we are also taking the wind out of the hot-gospellers’ and the Bible-thumpers’ sail. In the battle for the hearts and minds of mankind, “cruci-FICTION” is the only card the Christian holds. Free him from his infatuation and you will have freed the Muslim world from missionary aggression and harassment.
The Jews are not “in the dock.” Those guilty of Jesus’ murder are restricted to the few who actually had a direct hand in it. Jews have been persecuted by Christians but they have also been persecuted by Muslims. As history has shown, a belief that Jesus was not killed is no guarantee that a person will not persecute Jews (see The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism by Andrew Bostom). The next section of this chapter reads:
AROUND THE TABLE
On the eve of the Passover Feast, Jesus and his twelve disciples are seated around a huge Table with their host – the “beloved disciple”, whose name also happened to be JOHN. Johns’ and Jesus’ were names, common among the Jews in the year 30 A.C. as Toms, Dicks, Johns and Jimmys are with us in the twentieth century. There were at least 14 men at the table (count them if you wish) and not the unlucky thirteen of Western superstition.
Here we become aware that Ahmed Deedat knows of the beloved disciple and that this disciple has been traditionally named John. As noted above, the beloved disciple is the author of the Gospel and a witness to the crucifixion yet, as far as I know, Deedat never even mentions these facts in this book. He frequently quotes the Gospel of John but never the portions that mention these two pertinent facts. It gives the impression that Ahmed Deedat cites those verses that he can twist into agreement with his hypothesis and ignores the verses that make his hypothesis so implausible. The next section reads:
MARCH INTO JERUSALEM
Jesus (pbuh) made his triumphant royal entry into Jerusalem at the head of an excited and enthusiastic following, with high hopes of establishing the “Kingdom of God” any minute; riding a donkey to fulfill prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) –
Tell ye the daughter of Zion, behold, thy KING cometh. . .
sitting upon an ass. . .
And a great multitude spread their garments. . .
and branches in the way. . .
and the multitude cried, saying,
“Hosanna to the SON OF DAVID. . .
Hosanna in the highest . . .”
(HOLY BIBLE) Matthew 21:5-9
Let Luke the beloved physician, add his strokes to clarify the picture.
“. . . because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should IMMEDIATELY appear”-
(HOLY BIBLE) Luke 19:11
First, nothing in Matthew 21:1-11 implies that Jesus thought the kingdom of God was going to be established in the immediate future. Second, Luke 19:11 and following is meant to disabuse the people of the notion that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once (NIV):
11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them here and kill them in front of me.”
“But those mine enemies, who would not that I should REIGN over them, bring them hither, and SLAY them before me”- (HOLY BIBLE) Luke 19:27.
. . . Blessed be the KING who cometh in the name of the Lord. . . (HOLY BIBLE) Luke 19:38.
And John adds that the excited throng exclaimed –
“Hosanna! Blessed is the KING of ISRAEL, that cometh in the name of the Lord”- (HOLY BIBLE) John 12:13.
“The Pharisees said. . . Behold, the world is gone (mad) after him (Jesus)”- (HOLY BIBLE) John 12:21.
“NOW is the judgement of this world; N-O-W shall the prince of this world be CAST OUT”- (HOLY BIBLE) John 12:31.
Who would withstand such heady-wine of impending glory? Little wonder that Jesus was tempted physically to oust those that bought and sold within the temple precincts. He overthrew the money-changer’s tables and drove them out with a “whip of cords”-(John 2:15).
This section appears to argue that Jesus was intending to set up an earthly kingdom. Luke 19:27 is the last verse of the parable I quoted in full above and refers to some form of eschatological judgment. Luke 19:38 and John 12:13 do not necessitate an earthly kingdom. The context of John 12:31 causes major problems for Deedat’s recent claims. First, verses 35-36 indicates that Jesus was going to leave the disciples, which undercuts Deedat’s claim that Jesus wanted to set up a kingdom immediately. Second, verses 32-33 interpret verse 31 as saying Jesus’ death, not an earthly kingdom, would bring judgment on the world. Here is John 12:20-36 (NIV):
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”
35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
Next, Deedat writes:
AN ABORTED COUP
The overthrow of the Temple Authority was imminent, and a forerunner to the expulsion of the Romans, heralding the “Kingdom of God.” But alas his high hopes did not materialize. The whole performance fizzled out like a damp squib, despite all the “Hosannas” and hoorays to the “Son of David” and the “King of Israel.” All this ballyhoo was only forty years premature. Jesus had failed to heed the warning of the Pharisees to curb the over exuberance of his disciples (Luke 19:39). He had miscalculated. Now he must pay the price of failure. His nation was not ready for any sacrifice, in spite of all their infantile clamor.
Apparently Deedat thinks that overthrow of the Temple authority was imminent based solely on the fact that Jesus expelled some money changers from the Temple. Clearly such a conclusion cannot be logically drawn from that premise. Luke 19:39 is a statement in response to the disciples’ exclamation: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (verse 38). The statement has nothing to do with an overthrow of the Temple Authority. Moreover, verses 41-44 depict Jesus weeping over the future fate of Jerusalem (NIV):
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
This is an accurate depiction of the destruction the Romans wrought on Jerusalem in 70 AD after the Jewish revolt. Implicit in verse 42 is the fact that violence would not bring peace. Yet Deedat wants us to believe that Jesus believed violence would bring peace! Deedat’s interpretation of the Gospels simply cannot be reconciled with the actual text of the Gospels. Deedat closes this chapter with the following paragraphs:
The Jewish leaders reasoned that this one man had almost brought the nation to destruction. Therefore,
“It is expedient for one man to die for the nation –
(HOLY BIBLE) John 11:50.
But with all the mass hysteria surrounding him, it was also NOT expedient to apprehend Jesus in public. They waited for the opportunity of a clandestine arrest. As luck would have it they found in Judas, an elected disciple of Jesus (pbuh), a traitor who would sell his Lord and Master for thirty miserable pieces of silver.
JUDAS WAS DISGRUNTLED
In the opinion of Christian divines it was the greed of gold which enticed Judas to do his dastardly deed. But he had more money-sense then the Christians gave him credit for. As a purser for the elect group of Jesus he had endless opportunities of pinching pennies permanently. Why jeopardize that for all times for 30 paltry pieces? There is more to that than meets the eye. Judas was disgruntled, after all those mass demonstrations on Jesus’ regal entry into Jerusalem – those hot out-pourings of: “The HOUR is come – and NOW is – the Prince of this World will be CAST OUT – I should REIGN over them – bring them HITHER and SLAY THEM before me.” Jesus had now developed cold-feet. If only Jesus could be provoked, he might react with miracles, and bring down fire and brimstone from Heaven upon his enemies; and, of course, the legions of angels (which he boasted were at his disposal), which would enable him and his disciples to rule the world.
From close contact with the Master, he had learned that Jesus was kind, tender and loving. But, he was not a mealy-mouthed man; he was no milk-and-water Messiah. But Judas could not understand the “hot and cold” blowings of Jesus. Perhaps if Jesus was accosted, he would yet deliver the goods. To this end Judas schemed.
THE TRAITOR KNOWN
The furtive looks and the suspicious behavior of Judas had revealed everything to Jesus (pbuh). He did not need the Holy Ghost to interpret the misgivings in Judas’s mind. At the Table in the Upper-room where Jesus and his disciples were having that “Last Supper”, Jesus dismissed Judas with the words:
“. . . What thou doest, do quickly.”
(HOLY BIBLE) John 13:27
And Judas took off to put the seal on the deal to the stab-in-the-back.
Judas’ true motives are quite hidden from us today and any theory regarding them is speculative. They ultimately tell us nothing about whether Jesus died by crucifixion or not.