In “The Converts Debate: Paul Bilal Williams vs. Nabeel Qureshi” , Paul B. Williams uses a quote from the philosopher John Hick to seemingly approve of the Qur’an’s statement in Surah 4:157, which denies that Jesus really died on the cross in history. The Qur’an claims that Allah tricked (Surah 3:54-55) the Jews into thinking that they had crucified and killed Jesus, “it was made to appear to them” (Surah 4:157) that He died, but Jesus really did not die. This denial of the death of Christ in history makes the historical evidence “non-falsifiable” – that is, it will never matter how much historical evidence we can bring; the Muslim can always deny the crucifixion and death of Christ, which is a denial of history, because of that verse that says that Allah did a miracle behind the scenes and took Jesus to heaven and just made it appeared to all watching that Jesus was crucified and Allah made it appear that He died. This also means that Allah tricked the Jewish Christians, the disciples, the women at the cross, etc. and all generations afterward who believed in the death of Christ and atonement of Christ and the resurrection of Christ.
In part 2, around the 7:50 to 8:30 minute mark, Nabeel Qureshi responded with some of the same content as this quote: (this is from John Hick’s web-site) Nabeel was quoting from Hick’s book, “Disputed Questions”, but I was able to find a similar statement here at Hick’s web-site.
“This particular question of Jesus’ death raises well some of the issues that we have to look at. As a strictly historical question it is fairly nonthreatening to Christian faith. For the historical evidence is distinctly one-sided. Although the Gospel accounts come from two generations after the event, they all concur in affirming a death, as do the letters of St Paul, earlier than the Gospels, and there is also an independent reference in Josephus’ Antiquities to Jesus being crucified (though there has been much discussion about the authenticity of this passage); and the only basis on which his death is denied within Islam is the theological inference that God would not allow so holy a prophet to be killed. But this inference does not constitute historical counter-evidence. Any strictly historical question mark is a very slight and shadowy one arising merely from the general fact that we cannot attain one hundred per cent certainty about any historical details of the remote past. So there is (in my view at least) no serious purely historical dispute here. There is however a theological dispute. Here I can only express my own view. On the one hand, I have no doubts as to the historicity of Jesus’ death on the cross. But on the other hand I think that the ideas that his death was an atonement for human sin, and that his disciples’ experience of his presence after his death was a physical experience, are later creations of the church and are optional Christian beliefs.”
Hick affirms the historical evidence that Jesus really did die on the cross; but he denies the theological meaning of the atonement for sins.
Hick claims that the Gospels are “two generations after the event”. Does this mean he thinks the Gospels were written 80 years after 30 AD? 120 AD? Maybe John was written between 80-90 AD, but the others were in the 50s and early 60s. It seems clear that Luke was written by 62 AD, because of the way the book of Acts ends at that time. If it was written later, Luke would have written more about what happened to Paul. Instead it ends with Paul still in house arrest awaiting for his trial.
Wow. Even for the most so called “mainstream” views of Mark and Matthew and Luke, that is way too late. (let’s take just Bart Ehrman and Raymond Brown, since Paul Williams likes to use those 2 among others.) Even Bart Ehrmans puts Mark at 66-70 AD. If a generation is 40 years, then that is one generation away from 30 AD, when Jesus was crucified. Nevertheless, Mark was probably written between 45-60 AD; Matthew 50-60 AD, and Luke in 61 or 62, based on the way Acts ends in 62 AD, and that Luke clearly says he wrote Luke first in Acts 1:1-5.
“As a strictly historical question it is fairly nonthreatening to Christian faith. For the historical evidence is distinctly one-sided.” John Hick
“On the one hand, I have no doubts as to the historicity of Jesus’ death on the cross.”
“Although the Gospel accounts come from two generations after the event, they all concur in affirming a death, as do the letters of St Paul, earlier than the Gospels, and there is also an independent reference in Josephus’ Antiquities to Jesus being crucified . . . ”
Even though Hick is wrong about the dating of the gospels,
- He affirms the historicity of the crucifixion and death of Christ
- He says the historical evidence is all on the Christian’s side.
- He affirms the Josephus statement that Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate
So, from listening to the debate again, it seems that Paul Williams’ main beef with Christianity were his problems with the theological issues such as the Deity of Christ, the incarnation, the Trinity, the atonement and issues of the canon of Scripture and, upon learning liberal and accepting liberal scholarship, the dating of the NT books.
But he now accepts that the Qur’an is the Word of God, and if it says in Surah 4:157 that God made it appear that Jesus was crucified and died, but Jesus really did not die; then Paul Williams has just traded in his faith in God’s supernatural ability to do things (become a human – John 1:14 and then die for the sins of the world, be the atonement – Mark 10:45; Romans 3:25-26; Hebrews 2:14-18; 1 John 2:2; traded those beliefs in miracles, for another belief in a miracle that has one verse behind its claim, Surah 4:157, yet all of historical evidence is against that miracle claim.
He claims to be such an intellectual, etc. yet he traded in very basic historical evidence in favor of a miraculous claim made 600 years after the event, and the miraculous claim makes any historical evidence non-falsifiable. He traded intellectual study, history for a bare leap of faith in a non-substantiated miracle.
Yet, when we defend Christian doctrine based on NT texts, Paul Williams’ constant complaint is “you don’t understand how scholarship works” or “the best intellectual scholarly arguments show the gospel of John is non-historical” and “Luke deleted Mark 10:45”, etc. – yet, the best historical scholarship principles applied to the Qur’an shows that the author of the Qur’an was ignorant of history (Surah 4:157; 7:157; 61:6), and mixed truth (the truth is that the disciples of Jesus did become the uppermost and dominant and victorious group, for over 300 years, eventually winning the Roman Empire- but mixed with fiction, that God deceived everybody and Jesus did not really die ( 61:14; 3:54-55) and the Qur’an is ignorant of Christian theology (5:72-75; 5:116; 6:101; 19:88-92) that was established for 600 years, and therefore scholarship shows that the Qur’an was not inspired by God.