October 1, 2022

Subject: Evidence #14 for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Islam vs Christianity – The Impersonation Theory

Acts 4:10 “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.”

Ed Croteau

Skeptics have 6 theories to deny a physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This week, we examine the Impersonation Theory, which says Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances were someone impersonating Him.

First, no one doubts the Bible records the crucifixion, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the historical position of the Christian Church. In contrast, the Qur’an uses the Impersonation theory to deny this.

The Qur’an teaches the Impersonation, or Substitution, Theory – that Jesus was neither crucified nor killed, but rather it was someone else: “And for their unbelief, and their uttering against Mary a mighty calumny, and for their saying, ‘We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God’ — yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them” (Surah 4.155).

The Qur’an also clearly denies that Jesus was never even put on the cross: “But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them” (Surah 4.157). This is recognized as a glaring error in the Qur’an that has caused confusion within Islam as Muslim commentators try to explain this error away.

Muslims hold that at the moment of the actual nailing to the cross, someone else was made to look like Christ and was substituted for Him. Most Muslims believe that Jesus escaped crucifixion and death on the cross, that he was soon taken alive in his body to heaven and that he will return to earth in the future.

However, in his book ‘Jesus and the Muslim,’ Kenneth Cragg shows how the Qur’an’s Impersonation Theory highlights an important admission in Islam that agrees with Christianity: “Both – whether Christian or Muslim – begin from the undoubted fact that there was an intention to crucify Jesus Christ.” But while Islam agrees with Christianity that Jesus was intended to be crucified, Muslim commentators teach Surah 4.157 as the Impersonation Theory, which denies the historical crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Here are 3 examples.

Maududi (‘The Meaning of the Qur’an’): “After this, God raised Jesus to Himself and rescued him from crucifixion and the one who was crucified afterwards was somehow or other taken for Christ.” Daryabadi (‘The Holy Qur’an, Vol. 1’): “It was not Jesus who was executed but another, who was miraculously substituted (how and in what way is another question and is not touched upon in the Quran) for him.” Yusuf Ali (‘The Holy Qur’an’): “The Qur’an teaches that Christ was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, notwithstanding certain circumstances which produced that illusion in the minds of some of his enemies.”

Refutation #1 = All these commentators struggle to explain what happened. One says, “the one crucified was somehow taken for Christ.” Another says, “in what way another was substituted for Christ is another question and is not touched upon in the Quran.” The third says “circumstances produced that illusion of Christ crucified in the minds of some of his enemies.” Muslim teachers of the Qur’an’ cannot explain what happened.

Refutation #2 = The similarity between the Qur’an’ and the Gnostic heretic Basilides: “Jesus had not suffered; Simon of Cyrene had been compelled to carry His cross for Him; and that this man was crucified through ignorance and error, having been changed in form by Him, so that it should be thought that he was Jesus Himself”. The close similarity between the Qur’an (630AD) and Basilides (120AD) argues strongly for the probability that Muhammad got his belief that Jesus was not crucified from Basilides.

But then we have some very common-sense refutations for the Impersonation Theory which argue for an historic crucifixion and resurrection:

3. The disciples were reluctant to believe in the resurrection, were doubtful and would have been hard to convince unless after Jesus’s crucifixion it was really Him. This was the case with Thomas (John 20:24-29).

4. It would have been impossible to impersonate Christ’s wounds. This was Christ’s proof to Thomas that it was really Him who was both crucified and resurrected (John 20:24).

5. The disciples had traveled with the Lord for three years and it is incredible that anyone could have gotten away with an impersonation particularly due to their reluctance to believe.

6. They were meeting in locked chambers in some instances, and He suddenly appeared in His glorified body. No one could impersonate such a miraculous act other than the resurrected Christ.

Refuting the Impersonation Theory is now evidence #14 for why the crucifixion and bodily resurrection is true.

Ed Croteau is a lay pastor and resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the LS Tribune, on Facebook and his website www.fse.life.