Present-day Christians believe in the Holy Book known as the New Testament. Many sections of this book call people to believe in and worship God in a most sincere manner and recommend excellent moral principles. In that respect, much of the New Testament is compatible with the Qur'an. Therefore Muslims and Christians have a great many beliefs in common and believe in the same moral values. This is an important truth which represents the groundwork for the establishment of dialogue and cooperation between the two faiths.
However, God also reveals in the Qur'an that two fundamental teachings in the New Testament are erroneous.
The first of these is the belief that Jesus was crucified and was a kind of "sacrifice" for all mankind.
The second is the claim that Jesus is the "son of God." (God is surely beyond that. Far exalted is He above having a son.)
One interesting point is that the statements in the gospels regarding these two beliefs are actually contradictory.
The Four Gospels
The New Testament contains four separate "gospels" which describe the life and ministry of Jesus. The first three of these, the gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke are to a large extent parallel to one another. They are thus described as the "synoptic" gospels in the Christian tradition. (The word "synoptic" means "taking the same point of view, and describes the perspectives of the first three gospels.) Despite being the second gospel in the Old Testament, the earliest is the gospel according to Saint Mark. It is accepted that Matthew and Luke used the gospel according to Saint Mark as a source when writing their own gospels, making a few additions to it.
The fourth gospel is that of John, and this is very different to the line taken by the synoptic gospels. Some events described by John do not appear in the synoptic gospels, or are described in a contrary sense. Moreover, one event described by John is described totally differently from the way it appears in the synoptic gospels.
The Contradictory Descriptions of the Crucifixion
As we have already stated, it is revealed in the Qur'an that the person who was crucified was not Jesus but, by a miracle of God, someone resembling him was crucified and Jesus escaped the trap.
The gospels of the New Testament insist that it was Jesus who was crucified. However, their accounts of the crucifixion conflict with one another to an extent far greater than in any other subject.
There are enormous discrepancies on this subject, both among the synoptic gospels and that of John. The account which begins with the Last Supper of Jesus and the disciples and continues with his arrest and trial is the subject of considerable contradiction among the gospels. Let us now examine the major points of these contradictions:
It is clear that these discrepancies reveal an interesting picture.
That is because these events, which comprise the last day in the life of Jesus, from the Last Supper to the crucifixion, took place, according to the Christian tradition, before hundreds of witnesses. With the exception of the Last Supper, attended only by the disciples, they must all have taken place before large crowds. According to the gospels, the arrest of Jesus took place before hundreds of Romans and Jews. Again according to the gospels, the crucifixion happened in Jerusalem, before the eyes of the populace.
So why is it that there are such discrepancies between the accounts of these events that happened in front of so many eye-witnesses?
The answer is clear: The reason for these discrepancies in the accounts of the crucifixion is that the story is based on an error. It was not Jesus who was crucified. God saved this blessed prophet from the trap laid for him.
Jesus Did Not Die, but Is in the Presence of God
The Qur'an reveals that the unbelievers devised a plot to take Jesus' life. However, they have failed, for the Qur'an relates:
They [unbelievers] planned and God planned. But God is the best of planners. (Qur'an, 3:54)
As the verses reveal, they plotted and moved to kill Jesus. However, their plot failed and they ended up killing a look-alike. During this event, God raised Jesus up to His presence:
And [on account of] their saying, "We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Messenger of God." They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. (Qur'an, 4:157)
The subsequent verse says the following about Jesus' ascension:
God raised him up to Himself. God is Almighty, All-Wise. (Qur'an, 4:158)
The reality revealed in the verse is clear. Those who attempted to kill Jesus did not succeed. The expression "but it was made to seem so to them" reveals this fact. God showed them a look-alike and raised Jesus up to His presence. Our Lord also reveals that those who made that claim had no knowledge of the truth.
Jesus was not killed.
The truth, clearly indicated in the Qur'an and the hadiths (sayings) of our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace), is that Jesus is still alive and will return to Earth in the End Times.