A Christian Response to

Hamza Abdul Malik's Debate regarding

Was Christ Crucified?

Sam Shamoun

This paper will briefly examine some of the most common arguments presented by Mr. Hamza Abdul Malik of the Islamic Research and Propagation Center of Jamaica, NY against the New Testament witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The particular arguments that we will be addressing were made by Mr. Malik in his debate with Pastor Bill Lockwood of the Church of Christ, Marshall Texas. A videotape copy of the debate is available from Malik's Islamic Propagation Center.

We will be presenting the gist of Mr. Malik's points and offer our responses to them. Mr. Malik's presentation centered primarily on Paul's claims in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. We will quote the passage in its entirety enabling the reader to follow the arguments made by Mr. Malik:

3 For what I received I passed on to you as first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some of have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

We now proceed to his arguments.

Mr. Malik's Arguments on 1 Corinthians 15:3

Assertion 1:

Paul's use of the term "received" indicates that he was passing on secondhand information. It was not something which he knew from firsthand experience.

Response 1:

The term Paul uses in no way assumes that Paul's information was secondhand. In fact, the precise Greek term is used elsewhere by Paul when speaking of receiving commands directly from the Lord Jesus Christ himself:

"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you ..." 1 Corinthians 11:23

"I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." Galatians 1:11-12

Hence, if anything the term actually signifies that the information Paul received regarding Jesus' death, burial, resurrection and his appearances may have been taught to him by the risen Lord personally. Second, even if Paul had not received this information directly from the Lord Jesus, this still wouldn't make the information any less reliable. Paul could have received this information from the very eyewitnesses of the Lord, such as the Apostles. In fact, Paul alludes to this in verse 6:

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, MOST OF WHOM ARE STILL LIVING, though some of have fallen asleep.

Notice here that Paul says that the majority of these 500+ witnesses were still alive at the time of his writing (i.e., approximately 55 AD.). This means that Paul wasn't appealing to information that could not be verified, but was actually appealing to living eyewitnesses who had seen and heard the risen Lord firsthand. This allowed for Paul's readers to go and personally interrogate the eyewitnesses, which in turn allowed them to either personally verify Paul's claims or to expose him as a liar. Therefore, in light of Paul's appeal to nearly 500+ living eyewitnesses, Paul's information couldn't have been any more certain!

Finally, the most shocking thing about all this is that Malik believes the testimony of the Quran regarding Christ, even though it was written nearly 600 years after the life of the historical Jesus. If Paul's appeal to living eyewitnesses in 55 AD cannot be trusted, how much less the Quran which is removed from the time these events took place by nearly 600 years! Malik may claim that the Quran is a revelation from God and therefore the time factor is irrelevant. We too would respond that Paul was an Apostle commissioned by God personally, who received instructions from the risen Lord and from those who were eyewitnesses of the historical Jesus. Therefore, the traditions that Paul passed on can be completely trusted beyond any reasonable doubt. This is quite unlike the Quran which is based on the testimony of a man who didn't even live at the time these events took place.

Assertion 2:

Both Jesus Christ and his disciples, such as Peter, taught the necessity of repentance. (Cf. Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19). Yet, Paul denied the necessity of repentance in Romans 11:29:

"For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." KJV

Response 2:

Mr. Malik does not read carefully since Paul was not talking about an individual's repentance before God, but rather of God's unchanging promises to Israel:

"As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account: but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." Romans 11:28-29

Paul is speaking about the irrevocable promises of God to the patriarchs. Paul is emphasizing the immutable character of God in that he will not relent or turn back on the promises he has made to his covenant people. This passage has nothing to do with sinners' repenting.

In fact, had Mr. Malik read elsewhere in the New Testament he would have found the following statements made by Paul:

"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:30-31

"I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21

"First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me." Acts 26:20-21

"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" Romans 2:4

Assertion 3:

There is no Scripture predicting the death and resurrection of the Messiah. In fact, there isn't a single place where Jesus himself alludes to his death on behalf of sinners since he believed that justification came from observing the Law.

Response 3:

Actually there are several places where the Hebrew Scriptures predict that the Messiah would die on behalf of sinners, be buried and then raised to life again (cf. Psalm 16:10, Psalm 22; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Zechariah 12:10-13:1).

Secondly, it is simply wrong to say that the Lord Jesus never taught that he came to die for sinners or that a person is justified by faith in him. The Lord clearly stated that his death would be a ransom for many and that forgiveness would come through faith in him as the following citations clearly demonstrate:

"Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’" Matthew 26:27-28

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10

"He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached IN HIS NAME TO ALL NATIONS, beginning at Jerusalem.’" Luke 24:44-47

"Jesus answered, ’The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’" John 6:29

"For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:40

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:51

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep." John 10:14-15

"As for the person who hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." John 12:47

"I will rescue the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:17-18

Mr. Malik's Arguments on 1 Corinthians 15:4

Assertion 1:

Paul incorrectly indicates that Jesus' resurrection took place on the third day when according to the Gospels it was three days and three nights. (Cf. Matthew 12:40)

Response 1:

Paul was not wrong since the phrase "three days and three nights" was a Jewish expression indicating any period of time lasting till the third day. The following biblical evidence supports the fact that the expression didn't imply a literal (3 x 24 =) 72-hour period:

"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and ON THE THIRD DAY be raised to life." Matthew 16:21

"When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and ON THE THIRD DAY he will be raised to life.’ And the disciples were filled with grief." Matthew 17:22-23

"Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. ON THE THIRD DAY he will be raised to life!’" Matthew 20:17-19

"The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, "we remember that WHILE HE WAS STILL ALIVE that deceiver said, "AFTER THREE DAYS I will rise again." So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’ ‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard." Matthew 27:62-66

The expression "on the third day" did not originate with Paul, it was Jesus who regularly used it in the prediction of his death and resurrection. As we see, this is recorded in the very same gospel account that Mr. Malik appealed to in order to attack the Apostle Paul. Notice that Matthew records Jesus as using the expressions "three days and three nights" (12:40), "on the third day" (16:21, 17:23, 20:19) and "after three days" (27:63) to describe the period of time that Christ would be entombed.

"He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and AFTER THREE DAYS rise again." Mark 8:31

"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, IT IS THE THIRD DAY SINCE ALL THIS TOOK PLACE. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early THIS MORNING but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’" Luke 24:13-24

According to Cleopas and his companion the day they heard the reports of Jesus' resurrection was "the third day" from the time of Christ's entombment.

"Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again IN THREE DAYS.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken." John 2:19-22

"We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead ON THE THIRD DAY and caused him to be seen." Acts 10:39-40

Peter addressing Cornelius says that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and that he was an eyewitness of this. This conclusively demonstrates that those following Jesus clearly understood that the expression "three days and three nights" wasn't to be taken literally. Rather, they were aware that the expression referred to a time period that covered approximately three days.

In light of the preceding evidence the expressions "three days and three nights", "on the third day", "after three days", "in three days" are all interchangeable terms signifying a period of time lasting until the third day. Paul's statement is entirely consistent with the way the other apostles and Jesus himself spoke about it.

Additional evidence supporting the preceding conclusions and the NT data includes the following OT passages:

"Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men-the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison--had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, ‘Why are your faces so sad today?’ ‘We both had dreams,’ they answered, ‘but there is no one to interpret them.’ Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.’ So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, ‘In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand.’ ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said to him. ‘The three branches ARE THREE DAYS. WITHIN THREE DAYS Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.’ When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, ‘I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’ ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said. ‘The three baskets ARE THREE DAYS. WITHIN THREE DAYS Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh.’ Now THE THIRD DAY was Pharaoh's birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh's hand, but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation." Genesis 40:1-23

Joseph's three days equates to the third day. If three days were literal this would imply that the fulfillment of these dreams should have occurred on either the evening of the third day or sometime on the fourth day. Yet the text demonstrates that the expressions "three days", "within three days", "the third day" refer to the same time period. The same holds true with the following passage:

"Rehoboam answered, ‘Come back to me IN THREE DAYS.’ So the people went away ... THREE DAYS LATER Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, ‘Come back to me IN THREE DAYS.’" 2 Chronicles 10:5, 12

If the expression "three days later" were taken literally this means that the people had returned on the fourth day. Yet the text clearly shows that the phrase is equivalent to saying "in three days."

"For SEVEN DAYS they camped opposite each other, and ON THE SEVENTH DAY the battle was joined. The Israelites inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Aramean foot soldiers in one day." 1 Kings 20:29

Again, the expressions "seven days" and "on the seventh day" are interchangeable terms referring to a period of time covering approximately seven days.

One final example:

"‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink FOR THREE DAYS, NIGHT OR DAY. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’ ... ON THE THIRD DAY Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance." Esther 4:16, 5:1

The expression "night or day" implies that they were to fast without ceasing for three days. Yet, if three days were literal this would mean that Esther would have entered into the presence of the king on the evening of the third day, not on the third day. This once more proves that expressions such as "three days" and "on the third day" refer to the same period of time.

We therefore see that the problem is not with Paul, but rather with Malik's ignorance of biblical expressions and customs. Malik, as is often the case with Muslim apologists, commits a chronological fallacy by imposing his own modern understanding of these expressions upon an ancient document, as opposed to allowing the historical and cultural context define what these terms would have meant to those who first heard and read the biblical narratives.

Finally, we repeat this important observation: Paul did not invent the phrase "on the third day", but the Lord Jesus himself used it repeatedly, both before his death and after his resurrection:

"Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life." Matthew 20:17-19

"Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’" Luke 24:45-47

Assertion 2:

Paul mistakenly says that it was the same Jews who had Jesus crucified that had also taken him down from the cross and placed him in the tomb. (Cf. Acts 13:28-29) Yet, according to the Gospel writers, it was Joseph of Arimathea that did this, not the Jews.

Response 2:

Actually, the error is not in Paul but in Mr. Malik's lack of understanding. Paul gives us a hint as to what he actually meant in Acts 13:27:

"The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath."

The people Paul was alluding to was the Jewish ruling council since it was at their instigation that Jesus was crucified. Paul was not wrong in saying that they also had him buried since Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Jewish Ruling Council, and was there when they had Jesus condemned even though he was not in agreement with their decision. In fact, Joseph was not alone in burying Jesus, but was assisted by another member of the ruling council, Nicodemus. (Cf. Luke 22:50-56; John 19:38-42)

Just as it was not Paul's point in trying to say that every member of the council or all of Jerusalem wanted Jesus crucified, it was also not his intention to suggest that all of the ruling council buried Jesus. Hence, the error is in Mr. Malik's understanding not in Paul.

Assertion 3:

According to John 20:9, the disciples knew nothing of OT prophecies on the death and resurrection of the Messiah:

"For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead." KJV

Response 3:

Actually, the passage is not denying that there are prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection, but that up until the time of Jesus' death the disciples were not aware of or did not understand these predictions. After the resurrection, the Lord Jesus opened their minds to understand that this was precisely what the scriptures have always taught:

"The he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Luke 24:25-27 KJV

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me ... And he said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day." Luke 24:44, 46 KJV

"Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken." John 2:19-22

Mr Malik's Arguments on 1 Corinthians 15:5

Assertion 1:

There is no witness outside of Paul indicating that Jesus appeared to Peter personally apart from the group.

Response 1:

We find one such witness in Luke:

"They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’" Luke 24:33-34

Furthermore, even if there were no witnesses outside of Paul that record Jesus' appearance to Peter alone, this would simply be an argument from silence. Arguing from silence proves absolutely nothing.

Assertion 2:

The term Paul uses for Jesus' appearances is opthe. This implies that the appearances were merely spiritual in nature, visions, not something occurring in physical reality.

Response 2:

This is simply erroneous since it assumes (without evidence) that the term can only refer to visions, as opposed to concrete reality. Noted apologist Norm Geisler states it best in his response to this erroneous assumption:

"However, Christ's resurrection body could be seen with the eye. Appearance accounts use the word horao (‘to see’). Although this word is sometimes used of seeing invisible realities (cf. Luke 1:22; 24:23), it often means to see by the eye. The usual word meaning ‘vision’ is orama, not horao (see Matt. 17:9; Acts 9:10; 16:9). In the New Testament a vision usually, if not always, refers to something that is essentially invisible, such as, God or angels. For example, John uses horao of seeing Jesus in his earthly body before the resurrection (6:36; 14:9; 19:35) and also of seeing him in his resurrection body (20:18, 25, 29). Since the same word for body (soma) is used of Jesus before and after the resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:44; Phil. 3:21), and since the same word for appearing (horao) is used of both, there is no reason to believe the resurrection body is not the same physical body now immortal.

"Even the phrase ‘he let himself be seen’ (aorist passive, opthe), simply means that Jesus took the initiative to disclose himself, not that he was essentially invisible until he did so. The same form (‘He/they appeared’) is used in the Greek Old Testament (2 Chron. 25:21), the Apocrypha (1 Macc. 4:6), and in the New Testament (Acts 7:26) of human beings appearing in physical bodies (Hatch, 2.105-7). In further references opthe is used of ocular vision ... since the same expression is used of other humans with physical bodies and since Christ is said to have had a body (soma), there is no reason to take the expression to refer to anything but a literal, physical body, unless the context demands otherwise. To say otherwise contradicts the emphatic declaration of John that the body of Jesus, even after the resurrection (when John wrote) was continuously physical (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7).

"The same event that is described ‘he appeared’ or ‘let him be seen’ (aorist passive) such as the appearance of Christ to Paul (1 Cor. 15:8), is also found in the active mood. Paul wrote of this experience in the same book, ‘Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?’ (1 Cor. 9:1). But if the resurrection body can be seen by the eye, then it is not invisible until it makes itself visible by some kind of ‘materialization.’

"Christ's appearances were natural. The word ‘appeared’ (opthe) refers to a natural event. Arndt and Gingrich's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament points out that the word is used ‘of persons who appear in a natural way.’ The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes that appearances ‘occur in a reality which can be perceived by the natural senses.’ In his Linguistic Key to the New Testament, Fritz Rienecker notes that appeared means, ‘He could be seen by human eyes, the appearances were not visions’ (Rienecker, 439)." (Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics [ Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI, 1999], p. 659 bold emphasis ours)

Mr. Malik's Arguments on 1 Corinthians 15:6

Assertion 1:

Paul is the only one who knows of appearances to more than 500 individuals at one time. The Synoptic writers such as Luke know of only the appearances made on the very day of Jesus' resurrection. In fact, Luke implies that Jesus appeared to only 13 individuals before ascending to heaven on that very same day. (Cf. Luke 24)

Response 1:

First, Luke does not say that Jesus appeared ONLY to 13 individuals, but clearly implies that there were many more than that present:

"They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together." Luke 24:33

How many were present with the Eleven we do not know since Luke does not specify their number. To then try and use this passage to prove a contradiction in Paul's writings is erroneous.

Secondly, Mr. Malik has a problem with the Gospel writers giving us a condensed summary report of the events as opposed to a comprehensive list of all that transpired. The only problem with this approach is that it assumes that a writer is obligated to give complete details on every event reported, instead of simply summarizing the material to suit an intended audience. This methodology not only discredits the Gospels, but all summarized historical reports in general. This would also discredit the Quran since it often reports the same event with major verbal variations and with diverging details. Will Mr. Malik now toss out the Quran because it also summarizes events with variations?

Finally, the fact that Luke is giving us a summary report in Luke 24 can be easily seen from Acts:

"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all the things Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." Acts 1:1-3

Luke is clearly aware that Jesus did not ascend to heaven on the same day he rose from the dead, but appeared to his followers over a 40-day period. This demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that Luke is in fact summarizing Jesus' resurrection appearances in Luke 24. In light of Luke's own claim that Jesus remained on earth over a 40-day period, we can safely assume that it was sometime during this period of time that the risen Lord appeared to more than 500 of the brethren. We therefore see that no real contradiction exists between Paul's teachings and the Gospels.

Assertion 2:

In Acts 10:40-41, Peter states that Jesus appeared only to those whom he had chosen, i.e. the disciples. This explicitly denies the appearance to the 500.

Response 2:

There is nothing in the passage that even denies 1 Corinthians 15:6 since Peter never tells us how many were actually chosen by God to be eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ. If anything, this only demonstrates that the 500 were part of those eyewitnesses whom God had chosen. As in the previous example, these accounts do not contradict but rather complement one another.


In his debate with Pastor Lockwood, Mr. Malik also attempted to prove that the Apostle Paul knew next to nothing about the historical Jesus, but was simply interested in the Christ of faith.

A brief outline of what Paul actually knew of the historical Jesus will demonstrate the absurdity of such a claim.

Paul knew that Jesus was an Israelite and a descendant of David. (Romans 1:3, 9:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:8 cf. Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 1:26-33, 3:23-33)

Paul knew that Jesus was born to a Jewish woman and under the Mosaic Law. (Galatians 4:4 cf. Mt. 5:17; Lk. 1:26-33) He was also aware that Jesus had several brothers, one of whom was James. (1 Corinthians 9:5; Gal. 1:19 cf. Mark 6:3)

Paul knew of Jesus' humble and lowly state, that while on earth he lived poor, having no material riches. (2 Cor. 8:9; Philippians 2:5b-8 cf. Mt. 8:20, 11:29)

Paul was aware of Jesus' earthly teachings such as his position on marriage (1 Cor. 7:10-11 cf. Mt. 5:32, 19:3-9) and the right of evangelists in receiving monetary compensation for their work, even citing Luke 10:7 to support this (1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:18 cf. Mt. 10:10). Paul knows of Christ's instructions on the night he was betrayed regarding the Lord's supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26 cf. Lk. 22:17-20) and is even aware of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, alluding to it throughout Romans 12:9-21. He also confers with Christ on paying taxes to civil authorities. (Rom. 13:7 cf. Mt. 22:15-22)

Paul alludes to the historical Jesus' death under Pontius Pilate, which had been instigated by the Jews. (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15; 1 Tim. 6:13 cf. John 18:28-37, 19:8-12) He also affirms that Jesus was betrayed on the night of the Lord's supper. (1 Cor. 11:23 cf. Mt. 26:20-28)

This clearly affirms that the apostle Paul both knew and appealed to the life of the historical Jesus, providing details which are in perfect accord with that written elsewhere in the Gospels and Acts.


Mr. Malik tried to use Hebrews 5:7 to prove that Jesus didn't die on the cross:

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."

It is asserted that God saved Jesus from death by delivering him from the cross. It is quite sad to see Malik wrench this verse from both its immediate and greater context. In order to know what the inspired author meant by the statement that God saved Jesus from death we must look at the entire context of Hebrews. Once this is done, the author's meaning becomes quite clear:

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor BECAUSE HE SUFFERED DEATH, so that by the grace of God he might TASTE DEATH FOR EVERYONE. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering." Hebrews 2:9-10

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by HIS DEATH he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death ... For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-15, 17-18

"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God ALL OVER AGAIN and subjecting him to public disgrace." Hebrews 6:4-6

The phrase "crucifying the Son of God ALL OVER AGAIN" presumes that Christ had been crucified before. Otherwise, the expression would make little if any sense had Christ never been crucified.

"Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all WHEN HE OFFERED HIMSELF. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever." Hebrews 7:23-28

"When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all BY HIS OWN BLOOD, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will THE BLOOD OF CHRIST, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that HE HAS DIED AS A RANSOM to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Hebrews 9:11-15

"For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin BY THE SACRIFICE OF HIMSELF. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, SO CHRIST WAS SACRIFICED once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:24-28

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy ... Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body." Hebrews 10:10-14, 19-20

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him ENDURED THE CROSS, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:2-3

"so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy THROUGH HIS OWN BLOOD. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore ... May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD OUR LORD JESUS, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:12-13, 20-21

In light of these statements, we can now understand what the inspired author meant. God saved Jesus from the dead by raising him back to life, not by sparing Christ from the cross.


The final area of attack on the crucifixion made by Mr. Malik is references in the Holy Bible which allude to Jesus being slain and then hung on a tree:

"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree." Acts 5:30 KJV

According to Peter, Jesus was killed by the Jews and then hung on a tree. The Jewish method of execution was stoning, not crucifixion. In fact, in Deuteronomy 21:22-23, after a person had been stoned he would be left hanging on a tree as a sign that the person was accursed of God. Paul also alludes to Jesus hanging on a tree after being slain. (Cf. Galatians 3:13)

Finally, the term here for tree is xulon whereas the term used for cross is stauros, pole or stake. Accordingly, this proves that Jesus was not crucified on a cross where he then died. Rather, he was stoned by the Jews and then placed on a tree. This is a clear contradiction in the NT accounts since in the Gospels Jesus was placed on a cross and was killed, while in other places he was stoned and then placed on a tree after having already died.


This is perhaps the weakest point brought up by Mr. Malik since there is no contradiction. Had he read clearly and carefully he would have found the answer in the Holy Bible itself. First, the erroneous assumption that Jesus had died and then placed on a tree is not completely Mr. Malik's fault since this is the impression given by the unclear translation he uses, the KJV. Other, more accurate translations are not as vague:

"The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree." RSV

"The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree." NRSV

"The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead- whom you had killed by hanging on a tree." NIV

"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross." NASB

"The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree." ESV

"The God of our ancestors raised Jesus to life after you hung him on a tree and killed him." ISV NT

"You murdered Jesus by hanging him on a cross. But the God of our ancestors brought him back to life." GOD'S WORD

"The God of our forefathers has raised Jesus to life, whom you crucified and put to death." WEY NT

"You killed Jesus by nailing him to a cross. But the God our ancestors worshiped raised him to life." CEV

"The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from death, after you had killed him by nailing him to a cross." TEV

"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had murdered by hanging Him on a tree." HOLMAN NT

"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, the one you killed by hanging on a dead tree." WE

These translations bring out the meaning of this verse much more clearly and conclusively demonstrate that Jesus died as a result of being crucified on the tree. The verse in no way supports Mr. Malik's erroneous assertion that Christ died prior to his hanging on the tree. Also notice that some of these translations imply that the Jews had Jesus killed at the hands of others.

Secondly, since Mr. Malik cites both Peter and Paul in support of his proposition let us see if they give any clear indication that Jesus died as a result of crucifixion:

"this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law." Acts 2:23 NRSV

Peter clearly believed that Jesus was killed by crucifixion and that this was done by the instigation of the Jews at the hands of the Gentiles.

"Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." Acts 2:36 NRSV

Peter again affirms the crucifixion, this time emphasizing the role played by the Jews in instigating Christ's death. Therefore, Peter's statement that the Jews killed Jesus is not a denial of the role the Romans had in crucifying Christ, since the apostle earlier in the very same chapter clearly alludes to the role of the Gentiles in putting Jesus to death. The apostle was simply emphasizing the responsibility of the Jews in Christ's crucifixion, being the very ones that God used to fulfill his plan of having Christ die at the hands of the Gentiles.

"The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb." Acts 13:27-29

Paul affirms that the Jews had Jesus executed by Pilate on a tree. There is not a single place in the scriptures where it alludes to Jesus being put to death by stoning, since the evangelists clearly teach that the Jews had Christ killed at the hands of the Romans. The method of death used by the Romans was crucifixion, not stoning.

Furthermore, to argue that the apostles used xulon - tree as opposed to stauros - cross means that Jesus did not die on the cross is a fallacy. This is due to the fact that the evangelists use both Greek terms interchangeably when referring to the cross of Christ. An example is found in the writings of Paul:

"For the message of the cross (tou staurou) is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18

"Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross (to skandalon tou staurou) has been abolished." Galatians 5:11

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (en to stauro tou Kuriou hemon 'Iesou Christou), through which the world has been crucified (estaurotai) to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14

"All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree (epi xulou).’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." Galatians 3:10-14

This last passage from Paul gives us the reason why the evangelists would speak of the cross as a tree. They did this to emphasize the fact that Jesus took the curse of sin upon himself in order to redeem us from death. Christ hanging on the tree was evidence that the Lord had willfully become accursed of God on our behalf. As the Apostle Peter states:

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (to xulon), so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." 1 Peter 2:21-25

In the words of Messianic Jewish believer Dr. David H. Stern, taken from his comments on Acts 5:30:

Stake. Greek xulon, which KJV renders "tree" here and four other places (10:39, 13:29; Ga. 3:13; I Ke [Sam- Peter] 2:24), all referring to what Yeshua was hanged on until he died. Yeshua was not hanged on a tree, but on a stavros, usually translated "cross" and in the JNT translated "execution-stake," as explained in Mt 10:38N. The word "xulon" is used instead of stavros in these five places because all of them quote or allude to Deuteronomy 21:22-23, where the Hebrew word is "'etz," normally rendered into Septuagint Greek as "xulon." Both Hebrew 'etz and Greek xulon can mean "tree, wood, stake, stick" depending on context. In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, where the subject is hanging, an 'etz is any piece of wood which a person can be hanged, i.e. a stake (perhaps if metal gallows had existed, a different word would have been used). If Luke had meant a tree and not a stake, the Greeks had a word for it, "dendron," which he could have used but didn't. Therefore, while at Mt 26:47 and Mk 14:48 xulon means "stick," at Lk 23:31 and Rv 18:12 it means "wood," and at Rv 2:7 it has to mean "tree," here it means "stake"... (Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary [Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville Maryland, 1996], p. 237; bold emphasis ours)

Furthermore, the term xulon came to be used "in Classical Greek of stocks and poles on which bodies were impaled, here of the cross." (NIV Study Bible, footnote on Gal. 3:13)

Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich in their Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, state:

"xylon means living or dead ‘wood,’ anything made of wood, e.g., ‘a stick,’ ‘cudgel,’ or ‘club,’ also a ‘bench’ or ‘table.’ An instrument of punishment or restraint it is a kind of wooden collar. It is also for the ‘stake’ or ‘tree’ to which malefactors are fastened. Figuratively xylon is an ‘unfeeling’ person. The LXX often uses xyla for trees, but also xylon for wood, used for cultic or secular purposes." (Ibid., George W. Bromiley ed., Abridged In One Volume [Eerdmans Pub.; Grand Rapids, MI, 1985], p. 665; bold emphasis ours)

The Dictionary goes on to say:

"... The Cross. A distinctive use of xylon in the NT is for the cross. The basis is Dt. 21:22, which stresses the shame of being exposed on a tree. Acts 5:30, 10:39, etc. make the point that crucifixion is the greatest possible insult to Jesus, but that God has displayed his majesty by raising him from the dead. Paul in Gal. 3:13 shows that Christ has redeemed us from the curse by being made a curse for us according to Dt. 21:22. A curse lies on those who break the law, but Christ, who has not broken the law, voluntarily and vicariously becomes accursed, as his death on the accursed wood makes plain. He thus releases us from the curse and from the death that it entails. 1 Pet 2:24 is to the same effect when it says that Christ bore our sins in his own body on the ‘tree’ (with a plain reference to Is. 53:4, 12). The vicarious element is prominent here. Human sins are laid on Christ, crucified in him, and thus set aside. Christ does not lay sins on a scapegoat, but takes them to himself and cancels them on the cross, so that sinners, dead to sin, may live to righteousness." (Ibid., p. 666; bold emphasis ours)

The Blue Letter Bible's online Greek Lexicon presents the following definitions for "xulon":

3586 xulon {xoo'-lon}

AV - tree 10, staff 5, wood 3, stocks 1; 19

1) wood
1a1) AS A BEAM from which any one is suspended, a gibbet, A CROSS
1a2) a log or timber with holes in which the feet, hands, neck of prisoners were inserted and fastened with thongs
1a3) a fetter, or shackle for the feet
1a4) a cudgel, stick, staff
2) a tree

(Source: Blue Letter Bible)

Notice the manner in which xulon is used in the NT:

"‘Am I leading a rebellion,’ said Jesus, ‘that you have come out with swords and CLUBS (xulon) to capture me?’" Mark 14:48

No one assumes that "xulon" here means tree, unless of course one wants to claim that the soldiers were armed with actual trees! And:

"Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the STOCKS (xulon)." Acts 16:24

"If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, WOOD (xula), hay or straw." 1 Corinthians 3:12

This demonstrates that "xulon" can mean different things depending upon the context in which it is used. Since these lexical sources state xulon also refers to the cross as the method of execution, we therefore see that Malik's assertions are without any real merit.


It becomes apparent that Mr. Malik's points are easily refuted by a careful examination of the passages within their entire context, as well as careful research into lexicons, dictionaries etc. Something else that is also apparent from Mr. Malik's debate material is his consistent attack on the integrity of the apostle Paul. He often accuses Paul of deceit and outright textual fabrication.

The astonishing part of this assault is that Mr. Malik has absolutely no historical basis by which to attack the character of Paul. It is a fact that neither the Quran nor the earliest Islamic writings ever mention Paul as a false apostle. In fact, the earliest biography on the life of Muhammad actually teaches the exact opposite.

The Muslim biography Ibn Ishaq, in his book Sirat Rasulullah, affirms that Paul was one of those entrusted by God to pass Jesus' message universally, as well as being a companion of the apostle Peter:

"God has sent me (Muhammad) to all men, so take a message from me, God have mercy on you. Do not hang back from me as the disciples hung back from Jesus son of Mary. They asked how they hung back and he said, ‘He called them to a task similar to that which I have called you. Those who had to go a short journey were pleased and accepted. Those who had a long journey before them were displeased and refused to go, and Jesus complained of them to God. (Tabari From that very night) every one of them was able to speak the language of the people to whom he was sent.’ (T. Jesus said, ‘This is a thing that God has determined that you should do, so go.’

"Those whom Jesus son of Mary sent, both disciples and those who came after them, in the land were: Peter the disciple and Paul with him, (Paul belonged to the followers and was not a disciple) to Rome. Andrew and Matthew to the land of the cannibals; Thomas to the land of Babel, which is in the land of the east; Philip to Carthage and Africa; John to Ephesus the city of the young men of the cave; James to Jerusalem which is Aelia the city of the sanctuary; Bartholomew to Arabia which is the land of Hijaz; Simon to the land of Berbers; Judah who was not one of the disciples was put in place of Judas." (Alfred Guillaume, Life of Muhammad [Oxford University Press Karachi], p. 653)

In light of this evidence, we ask Mr. Malik to refrain from any further unwarranted and malicious attacks on the apostle Paul. To continue to both misrepresent and attack the teachings of Paul will only serve to indicate that Mr. Malik has no substantial arguments by which to refute Christianity. Nor shall such an approach win him approval before the God he claims to serve seeing that the earliest historians of Islam viewed Paul as a messenger sent by God on behalf of Jesus.

All Scripture references taken from the NIV unless noted otherwise.

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