Leaving Islam




The Probable Source of Muhammad's Views of Jesus

Michael Fortner

This article will explore the likely source for Muhammad's belief that Jesus was not crucified on the cross, but someone else.

[4.157] And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle 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.

Muhammad was a much traveled merchant who encountered many people on his journeys. No doubt he spent many nights discussing religion around a campfire. It is reasonable to assume that his ideas about Christianity came from these campfire discussions.

Orthodox Catholic Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, and outlawed all other forms of Christianity. They then attempted to destroy the writings of these divergent groups, but we now know that they were not completely successful.

In 1945 numerous Gnostic books were discovered in the desert of Egypt near a place called Nag Hammadi. Among these Gnostic works was a book that is called the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter (there is more than one Apocalypse of Peter). This book talks about how the real Jesus was not crucified on the cross, but only his physical appearance, while the real Jesus of pure spirit was looking on and laughing.

When he had said those things, I saw him apparently being seized by them. And I said, "What am I seeing, O Lord? Is it you yourself whom they take? And are you holding on to me? Who is this one above the cross, who is glad and laughing? And is it another person whose feet and hands they are hammering?" ... But he who stands near him is the living Savior, the primal part in him whom they seized.... the suffering one must remain, since the body is the substitute. (Lost Scriptures, by Bart Ehrman. Oxford Universtiy Press, 2003; pages 80, 81)

In spite of the Church's best efforts, the Gnostic books remained in limited circulation. Perhaps some Gnostics fled from the persecution of the Church into the Arabian desert where Muhammad encountered them.

As Muhammad sat listening to this book being read, he may have been even more intrigued by other statements contained in the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter. This book states that a false church will arise for a period of time, after which the truth will be made known again, and that this truth will be given to a people "of another race, who are not of this age" (Ibid, page 81). Did Muhammad see himself as the one who would tell the truth about Jesus, he and the Arab people being of different race and a different age?

Was the Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter the seed that eventually sprouted into the religion of Islam? It certainly could have been.

Michael Fortner

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