New Testament

Sign of Jonah

The Prophet Muhammad alleged that the Angel Gabriel gave him the words of Allah stating that Jesus Christ was not crucified (Surah 4:157).  However, the New Testament eye witnesses stated that Jesus Christ was crucified.  Consequently, there is a direct contradiction between the actual eye witnesses of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ and what Muhammad wrote more than 600 years after the events.  He claimed,

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Surah 4:157(trans. Yusuf Ali)

So, Muslim apologists have searched the New Testament writings to find support for their Prophet’s claim.  Some feel there is support for the Qur’an in the following New Testament verses on the Prophet Jonah.

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matt 12:38-40

A number of Old and New Testament scholars have taught that Jonah was not dead while he was in the whale’s belly for three days and nights.  So, some Muslim defenders claim that Jesus Christ Himself taught that he would not really die, because Jonah was not really dead while he was in the whale’s belly. However, the text does not support unequivocally this conclusion.

I.  Jonah. In brief, Jonah was cast overboard and was swallowed by a great fish. According to Jewish reckoning of time, he was in the deep three days and three nights. Then Jonah was vomited onto dry land after which time he went and preached in the Gentile city of Nineveh.

There is an intimation in the book of Jonah, that he died while he was inside the great fish and that he was subsequently brought back to life.  This can be seen in Jonah 2:2, where it states that Jonah cried for help from the depth of Sheol.  Sheol is the Hebrew word for the place of the souls of those who have died. Secondly, in verse 6 it states that Jonah’s life was brought up from the pit or the grave. Sheol would be a reference to his departed soul while the pit (or grave) would be a reference to his dead body.

and he said, “I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; Thou didst hear my voice.
“I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars {was} around me forever, but Thou hast brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. Jonah 2:2,6 (NAS)

The Hebrew word for ‘pit’ is often translated as corruption or the grave. The human soul does not undergo physical decomposition like the body at death. So, this word could only apply to the body and not to the soul.

Strong’s Dictionary Number 7845 shachath (shakh’-ath); from 7743; a pit (especially as a trap); figuratively, destruction: KJV—corruption, destruction, ditch, grave, pit.

Hence, the text is perfectly compatible with the idea that Jonah did die and was revivified.

II.  Signs. The topic of these verses is the ‘sign’ of Jonas the prophet. If I have counted correctly, the word, sign, is used 4 times. A sign is something that points to, or represents, or symbolizes, something larger and more important than itself. So, if a person sees a sign with the words, Pacific Ocean, that person should not conclude that the sign itself is the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, signs don’t have to fully mimic all aspects of what it symbolizes. For example, the Pacific Ocean is wet, but a sign with the words, Pacific Ocean, does not have to be wet to signify the Pacific Ocean.

III.  Sign of Jonah. Symbolically, Christ used the events of Jonah’s life to afford a picture of what would happen to Himself. Christ would be rejected by the Jewish nation (cast overboard). He would be in the grave (fish’s belly), and he would rise from the dead (vomited upon dry land).  Finally, the Injil of Jesus Christ would be preached to all the world (Jonah preaching in the Gentile city of Nineveh).  

The picture of Jonah under the waters is a picture of Christ in the tomb.  More specifically, Christ noted a correlation between Jonah being in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights and himself being in the grave for three days and three nights.  According to Jewish reckoning of time, this is what historically happened.  Consequently, the ‘sign of Jonas’ was literally fulfilled.  Furthermore, as Jonah’s spirit was in Sheol, so Christ’s spirit was in Sheol too. Next, as Jonah’s body was brought up to life, so Christ’s dead body was resurrected from the grave. Hence, the sign of Jonah does not support at all the idea that Jesus Christ was not crucified. 

The Old and New Testament affirm that the soul of a dead person is in Sheol (or Hades). It is only the body that undergoes decay. Thus, the first part of Psalms 16:10 and Acts 2:27 refers to the departed spirit while the second part of the verse applies to the physical body.

For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Psalms 16:10 (NAS)
Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Acts 2:27 (NAS)

As we know, Christ was crucified and died upon the cross. The story of Jonah indicates that he too may have died and was revivified. So, the sign of Jonah the Prophet provides no support for Muhammad’s assertion in the Qur’an that Jesus Christ was not crucified upon the cross.

It is noticeable that Jonah was a prophet to the Gentiles. Jonah said, “Salvation is of the LORD.” He said that “weeds were wrapped about my head.” Christ wore a crown of thorns when he was crucified. So, it is no wonder Christ referred to the ‘sign of Jonah’, since it beautifully symbolizes Christ’s rejection, death, burial, resurrection, and preaching the gospel of the grace of Allah to the Gentile nations of the world.

Edited 4-30-2002


The Third Day

In the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad, who lived more than 600 years after the events, made the claim that Jesus Christ was not crucified (Surah 4:157).  No doubt, this was a story, like some of the other accounts in the Qur’an, that he learned from the oral traditions of the Jews of Arabia.  

“All those who have studied the matter know and declare that the great bulk of the Koranic material is of Jewish origin, and we have certain knowledge that Muhammad resorted habitually to learned Jewish teachers.”  C.C. Torrey, The Jewish Foundation of Islam, In: Ibn Warraq (Editor),The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book, pages 302-303. (See References )

Muhammad’s claim contradicts the actual eye witness reports of the crucifixion.  He claimed,

And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the messenger of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. Surah 4:157 (Trans. Shakir)

To defend Muhammad’s assertion that Isa was not crucified, Muslim apologists have looked for ways to discredit the New Testament crucifixion accounts.  Christ prophesied that he would rise from the dead on the third day, but Christ was not in the grave for a full 72 hours ( 3 days x 24 hr/day ).  Therefore, there seems to be an apparent contradiction between the Isa’s prophecy of being in the grave for three days and nights and  actually being in the grave for less than 72 hours.  One of the scriptures in question is,

“Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.” Mark 10:33-34

Of course, we know from the gospel narratives that Christ was in the grave less than 72 hours.  So, did Christ’s prophecy fail when he foretold that he would rise on the third day?

According to the Jewish reckoning of time, a partial day could count as a whole day. Christ was crucified on Friday and rose on Sunday. Therefore, according to Jewish reckoning of time, Christ arose from the dead on the third day.

For example, Queen Esther asked the Jews who lived in Shushan not to eat for “three days, night or day” after which she would go in unto the king.

“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, ….Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, …Esth 4:16-5:1

Queen Esther did not wait until 72 hours had past. She fasted part of first day, the whole of the second day, part of the third day, and went into the king on the third day. So, there were two partial days, one complete day, and two complete nights. Yet, according to the Jewish sense of time, she had fasted her three days. (See 1 Sam 30:12-13 for another example.)

Christ was circumcised after eight days were accomplished. This does not mean that 192 hours (8 days x 24 hr/day) had passed. This is because a partial day counted for a whole day. Christ was circumcised during the eighth day.

“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” Luke 2:21

The chief priests and Pharisees well-remembered Christ’s prophecy when they went to Pilate to ask that the sepulchre be guarded. They noted that Christ had said that he would rise “after three days.” So they asked that the sepulchre be guarded “until the third day.” This is because “after three days” does not mean until 72 hours had elapsed. This is because only a few minutes into the third day were necessary for the third day to be counted as a full day. So, the grave site had to be guarded from the very beginning of the third day. The chief priests and Pharisees understood Christ’s prophecy correctly in Jewish terms–a partial day counts as a whole day.

“Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.” Matt 27:63-64

The Jewish elders and soldiers conspired an alibi, saying that while they were sleeping the disciples stole him away. How could they know, while they were sleeping, what was transpiring?

“And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.” Matt 28:12-13

Just as the witness of sleeping soldiers is incredible, so are the claims of Muhammad who did not have any first hand knowledge about Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  About the only thing Muhammad’s claim supports is the Jewish elders’ and Roman solders’ accusation that Christ was a ‘deceiver.’  Yes, it is true that Christ’s death and resurrection have been disputed. The dispute started when the Jewish leaders gave the Roman soldiers a large sum of money to cover-up the resurrection event.

The Apostle Paul recounted some of the witnesses to the resurrected Christ.

“And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.” 1 Cor 15:4-7

The historical evidence clearly supports Christ’s death via crucifixion.

The issue of three days and nights is more extensively treated at Friday Crucifixion and Sunday Resurrection.

Edited 01-22-2000


God of the Living

The following challenge to the New Testament is not successful against those who have an average understanding of the New Testament.   In fact, it is difficult to imagine that the objector is honest about the objection, because Jesus answered the objection in the very passage the objector cites.  Perhaps, the skeptic finds the objection successful when it is used before an audience who are not familiar with the New Testament.

It is alleged by some that Jesus Christ had no relationship to God while he was dead.  Firstly, this allegation uses the the Bible where it states that God is only the God of the living and not of the dead.  

“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” Mark 12:27 (NIV)

Secondly, it is recognized that Jesus Christ died and was buried in a borrowed tomb.  Now, if God were only the God of the living, then logically it seems to follow that Jesus Christ could not have had a relationship with God while he was dead.

Syllogistically, the conclusion follows from the premises.  Hence there is an apparent contradiction.

Premise 1. Jesus Christ was dead when he was in the tomb.
Premise 2. God is not God of the dead.  
Conclusion. Therefore, God was not God of Jesus Christ while he was dead.

The answer to this apparent contradiction is simple and is answered in scripture that the objector uses to make his point.  The Sadducees believed there was no resurrection of the dead. They did not believe that the human spirit continued beyond the death of the body.  Christ’s responded to them by noting that, although the body of Abraham was in the grave, he was alive before God in his spirit or soul. The Sadducees knew where the tomb of Abraham was. They had no doubt that his body was dead and decayed in his grave.  They thought that the grave was the complete end of all human existence.

Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. Mark 12:18 

Now about the dead rising– have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” Mark 12:26-27 (NIV)

The Sadducees did not accept the immateriality of the human spirit or that the human spirit survives death.  Consequently, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Jesus answered their objections by noting that Abraham, in spirit, was alive in the presence of God, even though his body was in a state of death in the grave.  Jesus answered the objection by quoting from the book of Exodus in the Old Testament.

Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” …  Exodus 3:6 (NIV)

Since God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and since God is God of the living, it follows that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must be alive in some spiritual sense, even though their bodies were dead and in their respective graves.  Elsewhere, the Bible teaches there is a distinction between the body and the spirit too.  

So, the answer to the objection is found in the very verses used to support the objection. The answer to the objection is the fact that the soul continues to exist after the death of the body.  It is true that Jesus Christ’s body was dead while it was in the tomb.  However, Jesus Christ’s spirit was in the presence of God the Father.  Jesus committed his spirit to the presence of the Father, while his body was committed to the garden tomb.  So, as the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive, so, likewise, the soul of Jesus Christ was alive even when his dead body was in the tomb.

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46 (NIV)

So, regarding the body of Jesus Christ, it was in the tomb. Regarding his blessed spirit, he was in the presence of the Father.  God is God of the living.  Hence, there is no real contradiction.  The body dies and decays in the grave while the spirit livingly returns to God to await the resurrection of the body.

Edited 01-22-2000


Jesus in Hell

This article deals with another apparent contradiction regarding the location of Jesus Christ’s soul (or spirit) while his body was in the grave.  First, it should be noted that Muslim objections to Christ’s crucifixion and death originates with the Qur’an’s claim that Jesus Christ was neither crucified nor died upon a Roman cross.  Thus, the origin of the objection does not begin with the historical evidence for Christ’s crucifixion.  Rather, the objection begins by assuming the truth of the Qur’anic statements.  Of course, when a text is assumed to be true, all contrary historical evidence is automatically rejected.  Thus, Muslims are motivated by their presuppositions to discredit all the historical evidence for Christ’s crucifixion and death.  Because, if Jesus Christ were crucified, then the Muhammad’s Qur’an is factually and historically in error.  

In some ways, Muhammad’s error is not surprising, because the Arabian Peninsula was not an area where historical scholarship flourished during his time.  The merchant traders were familiar with the stories, legends, myths, superstitions, and oral traditions of the peoples of the desert, more than they were familiar with the historical documents.  Their legends were an important part of their Arabian culture, because they instilled their traditional values and a sense of community among the Arabian hearers.  

This article answers an apparent contradiction in the New Testament.  On the surface, it appears that, while Jesus Christ was dead, Jesus’ soul was simultaneously in hell and in paradise.  Hell is a place of fiery torment and pain, but paradise is a place of delight and blessing.  Thus, it does not seem possible that Christ’s soul could be in both places simultaneously.  Therefore, there seems to be contradiction in the location of Jesus Christ’s soul while his dead body was in the tomb.  The verses for the basis of the contradiction follow,

In Hell,

Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;  He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.  This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.  Acts 2:30-32 (KJV)

In Paradise,

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.  And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Luke 23:42-44 (KJV)

The answer to this apparent contradiction arises because the English word, hell, should be translated more accurately, Hades. There are three Greek words (gehenna, tartarus, and hades) that are all translated  ‘hell’ in the English King James Version (KJV).

A. Gehenna, hell, a place of everlasting fiery punishment.
B. Tartarus, hell, a place of the abyss and darkness.
C. Hades, the state of the departed spirits.

Gehenna is the Greek word that most properly and most commonly designates hell in the New Testament. This is the hell where the damned are assigned after the final resurrection and the last judgment.  Gehenna refers to the hell of fiery flames of eternal punishment.  The valley of Ge-Hinnom was next to the ancient city of Jerusalem.  This valley was where the city’s trash and refuse was burned.  The city’s inhabitants could always see smoke and fire arising from the burning trash in the valley. Thus, the valley’s name became a term to designate the hell of fire and torments.  However, the Greek word, Gehenna, is not the Greek word found in Acts 2:31.  An example of a verse that uses the Greek term, Gehenna, for the fiery hell is found in Mark 9:43.

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell (Geennan), where the fire never goes out.  Mark 9:43 (NIV)

Strong’s Dictionary, geena (gheh’-en-nah); of Hebrew origin [1516 and 2011]; valley of (the son of) Hinnom; ge-henna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem, used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment:

Tartarus is another Greek word that is translated hell in the KJV Bible.  This word occurs just once in the Greek New Testament.  It refers to the abyss and the chains of darkness.  The only place the word occurs is in 2 Peter 2:4.  This word for hell is not the one found in Acts 2:31.  

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;  2 Pet 2:4 (KJV)

Strong’s Dictionary, tartaroo (tar-tar-o’-o); from Tartaros (the deepest abyss of Hades); to incarcerate in eternal torment:

Hades is a state or condition of a soul or spirit after the body’s death. Hades is not hell, as we commonly think of hell.  It is a temporary condition of the departed spirits that lasts until final resurrection and the Day of Judgment.  Both the believer’s departed soul and the unbeliever’s departed soul are in Hades until the time of the resurrection of the body.  Some scholars think that the term, Hades, etymologically means, “the unseen,” while others believe it is derived from a word meaning, “all-receiving.”  The grave receives the body, while Hades, the Unseen, receives all the departed souls or spirits.  

Strong’s Dictionary, haides (hah’-dace); from 1 (as negative particle) and 1492; properly, unseen, i.e. “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls:

Thus, all the departed souls are in Hades. Those who are redeemed enjoy the loving presence of Allah.  This is a place of bliss, and it is sometimes called, the bosom of Abraham (Luke 16). Those who are unbelievers are in Hades too. However, there place is sometimes called a prison (1 Peter 3:19).  This is where unbelievers await the last resurrection and their final damnation to hell (Gehenna).

Never does the New Testament record that Christ went to Gehenna or Tartarus after he died.  His blessed spirit was in Hades, the place of all departed souls.  Furthermore, it was his body that did not see corruption, because a spirit never undergoes physical decay.  The New King James (NKJ) version properly translates Acts 2:27 with the word Hades instead of the incorrect word, hell.

“For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” Acts 2:27 (NKJ)

So, Acts 2:27 claims that Christ’s soul was not left as a departed spirit in Hades nor was his body allowed to experience corruption.  Acts 2:27 has nothing to do with Christ going to the fiery caverns Hell and being with the devil and his infernal demons.  It simply means that Christ’s soul (spirit) was not left disembodied.  His soul revivified his body in the event of the resurrection.  His body was miraculously preserved, and it did not corrupt the short time it was in the grave before its resurrection.

So, Christ going to Paradise is perfectly compatible with the state of his departed spirit (Hades).  Hades simply refers to the condition, or the state, of a spirit separated from its body.  All departed souls are in Hades too.  While the lost souls are tormented by their condition of lostness, the redeemed are blest in the paradise of God. It is only after the last resurrection that the lost are actually cast into Gehenna.  The redeemed are resurrected to enter bodily the abode of heaven.

The Apostle Paul viewed bodily death as a gain, because his bodily death would result in his spirit being brought into the enjoyed presence of Christ. Thus, while his body was dead, his soul would be in Hades enjoying the pleasures of Christ’s blest presence.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Phil 1:21-24 (NIV)

In conclusion, Jesus’ soul never went to hell.  His spirit went to Hades where all of the departed believers’ spirit go to enjoy blessed presence of Allah.  This state or place is called paradise for the redeemed.  Christ’s soul did not remain in Hades.  His body became re-animated by his soul at his resurrection.  Forty days after his resurrection, he was raised to heavenly glory (Acts 1:9).    

On the final day of Judgment, death (the grave will yield up the bodies) and Hades (the place of the departed spirits) will all be emptied. The bodies will be rejoined with their human souls before the final judgment.  After the final day of judgment, death and Hades will end their existence by being cast into “the lake of fire.”  This Lake of Fire is the fiery hell (Gehenna) that is mentioned a number of times in the New Testament scriptures.  So, these verses clearly distinguish between Hades (the abode of departed spirits) and Hell (the Lake of Fire).   Hades is a temporary condition for the departed souls while Hell is the eternal abode of the unbeliever.  Hades will no longer exist after the final day of judgment. 

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Rev 20:12-14 (NIV)

Edited 01-24-2000