Full Review of Wood Vs. Gulam Debate:
Was Jesus Crucified?

By Ehteshaam Gulam

The Debate between me and David Wood on the topic Was Jesus Crucified was held in Calvary Church of Romulus, Michigan on April 19, 2009. I finally met both David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi. I got along with both of them and I consider both of them my friends, especially Nabeel Qureshi, because I can understand where he comes from. I feel like I know and understand David and Nabeel better know that I met them in person. In the past I was told that both of them are hate mongers and constantly insult Islam are dishonest when speaking about Islam while having delusions of their own faith. But this isn't true--- both of them are nice and easy to get along with, especially Nabeel. But I can understand people warning me and others about Christian Apologists dishonest tactics when they deal with other religions. Now I just don't trust--or in some cases, actively distrust what Christian Apologists have to say about either Islam or Christianity.

As I predicted I didn't win the debate. David Wood clearly beat me and for those of you who actually saw the video-- there is no disputing it.I fully acknowledge Woods skills as a debater are far more polished than mine. However I feel that I modestly accomplished my goal and that was to get people interested in Islam.

Anyways In my first review I didn't bring up too much due to finals week last month, however this time, since I have spare time, I will try to cover everything in that went down during the debate..

I. The Historical Record

* David Wood's arguements are pretty much the same as other debates on this topic. He argues that the alleged death of Jesus is the most certain fact in history. If that's true than certainly many historians in the 1st century Roman World would've mentioned it. However the fact is that there were 60 historians in the Roman World, yet only two historians in the entire 1st century mention the crucifixion of Jesus. These writers are Josephus Flavius and Tacitus. As I said before in the Was Jesus Crucified section, we can't really trust these sources.

Josephus Flavius, the Jewish historian, lived as the earliest non-Christian who mentions a Jesus. Although many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius), Josephus' birth in 37 C.E., well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, puts him out of range of an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., after the first gospels got written! Therefore, even if his accounts about Jesus came from his hand, his information could only serve as hearsay.

Tacitus, the Roman historian's birth year at 64 C.E., puts him well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus. He gives a brief mention of a "Christus" in his Annals (Book XV, Sec. 44), which he wrote around 109 C.E. He gives no source for his material. Although many have disputed the authenticity of Tacitus' mention of Jesus, the very fact that his birth happened after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus and wrote the Annals during the formation of Christianity, shows that his writing can only provide us with hearsay accounts.

So much for the "historical" record. As for modern Scholars quoting that Jesus must've died on the cross that fatefal day in  Jerusalem--- they are just repeating what Christians are saying about the matter. One of the points I brought up during the debate was How do we Know for sure that Jesus died on the cross? We can't travel back in time with a team of doctors to confirm it. Therefore the possibility of his survival remains.

* In the Beginning of his presentation, Mr. Wood brings up the subsitution theory. The subsitution theory was told by Muslims to justify what the Quran says. The verse of the Quran in regards to Jesus's crucifixion goes like this:

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:- (Quran 4:157 Abdullah Yousef Ali Translation-- Mr. Ali's translation is the most trusted English translation of the Quran out there).

I document why Muslims should stop using the subsitution theory to vindicate the Quran's account of the crucifixion here.
The orginal Arabic words found in the Quran do not point out to someone else being crucified instead of Jesus. Rather the words translated from Arabic are It was made to appear to them. For hundreds of years Muslims have come up with two theories to support the Quran, One that Someone else was nailed to the cross and Jesus got away and two Jesus was nailed to the cross, however he didn't die on the cross, he survived. I argued in this debate that Jesus survived the crucifixion. I don't see much evidence for the subsitution theory (however more on this later).

II.The Ressurection

* When Paul (the earliest New Testament writer-- he was writing around 50-60 C.E.) was talking about the ressurection, he was talking about some sort of spiritual ressurection and not a physical ressurection. Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. (1 Corinthians 15:35-38 New International Version)

What Paul meant is that God supplies a new body at the resurrection, and that is not the body we bury. David Wood however said in his first rebuttal that the earliest Christians did not believe in a non-bodily ressurection-- and this is correct. Rather the earliest Christians believed that we get a new spiritual body when we are ressurected from the dead. Since Paul believed Jesus was raised the same way we would be when we are ressurected (See 1 Corinthians 15:13-16,20 & 1 Thessaloians 4:14, etc.) he must also have believed that Jesus did not rise in the body that was buried ("that which was sown"), but that God gave Jesus a new body ("the body that will come to be"). And this new "ressurected" body was a spirtual body not a physical body. We find evidence of this in the following verses:

"the body you sow is not the body that will rise" (1 Corithians 15:37) and "a natural body is sown, but a spiritual body is raised" (1 Corinthians 15:44)

So Paul probably believed that Jesus was resurrected by being given a new body, not a phyiscal body like we have, but a spiritual body like the angels have. This makes sense when we look at 1 Corinthians 15:50 where Paul says: "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God". It is thus obvious that he does not believe that the resurrection involved flesh and blood, i.e a physical body in our familiar sense, but a different, ethereal body, like the same sort of body angels have (and according to the Gospels, Jesus said we shall be like angels, cf. Mark 12:25; Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:34-36).1 Peter also argues this quite explicitly: 1 Peter 3:18 declares that Jesus was "put to death in flesh but made alive in spirit".

Jesus also said that at the ressurection we shall be like angels-- Angelized, spiritualized (Mark 12:25, Matthew 22:30 and Luke 20:34-36).

Other scholars agree that Paul and the other early Christian writers believed in a spiritual ressurection-- and not a physical ressurection:

"Paul.... in a context where he was discussing Jesus's resurrection, [declared] that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50) . He believed that the dead are raised not in a physical body, but "in glory" (verses 42-43) , and with their lowly bodies changed to be like Jesus's "glorious" one (Philippians 3:21) .... Paul never suggests that Jesus tarried on earth after his resurrection, and never places any interval between his rising and his being at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Thessalonians 1:10). He seems to have assumed that the risen Jesus ascended into heaven immediately, with a body of radiance; and so he will naturally have supposed that the subsequent appearances he lists were made by a descent from heaven (Wells, 1996, pp. 56-58).

And as the commentators in the Oxford Study Edition of The New English Bible put it:

The Corinthians seem to have balked at the idea of bodily resurrection. Paul agrees that the flesh has no part in the kingdom (v. 50), arguing that there are many kinds of bodies and that Christians will receive bodies made not of flesh, but of spirit (Sandmel, et al., 1976, p. 217).

So Ressurection was spiritual-- and not physical in any way. Paul  never mentions Jesus having been resurrected in the flesh, he never mentions any empty tombs, no phyiscal apperances or anything like that. So its pretty obvious that this was spirtual. David Wood brings up Romans 8:11, trying to imply that this shows a phyiscal ressurection. But does it? Not really. Richard Carrier ( A Ph.D. in Greco Roman History) was asked a question about this and here was his response:

Q: In Romans 8:11 Paul says God "will also give life to your mortal bodies" just as he did to Jesus, and then he says in 8:23 that we await "the redemption of our body." Don't these passages clearly indicate the same body that dies is the body that will be raised?

A: Not necessarily. I already challenge this interpretation of both verses in the book (pp. 149-50). I say a lot there that must be read. Here I will only note three of the facts that I discuss further there: the "also" in Romans 8:11 does not grammatically correlate with the resurrection of Jesus (bad translations have falsely given that impression); Paul does not say "our mortal bodies will be raised" (in fact, he never connects our "mortal bodies" with resurrection at all, not even in 8:23, which is a whole twelve verses away from 8:11 and does not speak of a "mortal" body); the context of 8:11 appears to be about our current state of grace, not our future resurrection (as in 2 Cor. 4:10), while Paul only gets to the resurrection in later verses; and 8:23 actually says we expect "the release of our body," without specifying which body he means, or in what way it will be released. Close examination suggests he more likely meant the release of our "inner man," which is our new spiritual body, which we are already growing inside us. (Source)

Unfournately I didn't know that Mr.Wood would be bringing up this verse during the debate (this is one of the reasons why I lost-- I had no response to this). However it looks like Romans 8:11 is pointing to something spiritual and not physical.

III. The Crucifixion

Due to the huge amount of material regarding Jesus crucifixion-- I will only briefly cover some important facts surrrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. This summer I will try to finish up all the evidence that show the survival of Jesus---- but right now here is some material that throws doubt on whether Jesus died or not.

Like I said in my first review of this debate, the word ressurected is not written in any of the four gospels. Rather the word is "risen" which could mean that Jesus rose up, similar to how people rise from their beds.

In all of the Gospels, nobody sees Jesus "rise" from the dead. They only observe a missing body, and later are visited. However it should be noted that the earliest Gospel, the Gospel of Mark does not have the resseurection narrative. It was added some time late in the 2nd century or even later. Before that, as far as we can tell, Mark ended at verse 16:8. But that means his Gospel ended only with an empty tomb, and a pronouncement by a mysterious young man that Jesus would be seen in Galilee--nothing is said of how he would be seen. [1]

The Gospels make it clear that Jesus most likely survived his crucifixion. This is not impossible, as many people in history have survived worse. Jesus clearly said he was going to survive whatever those Jewish troublemakers were plotting aganist him (Matthew 12:38-40). Death by crucifixion typically took days, yet Jesus was only on the cross for maybe 3 hours at the most. Ths could explain Pilates surprise that people were saying Jesus was dead within that short amount of time (Mark 15:44). As Ahmed Deedat said "Pontius Pilate knew from experience that normally no man would die within 3 hours on the cross". Of course David Wood brings up that we have to explain how Jesus survived the flogging, scourging and torture he went through. But all victims of crucifixion went through the same torture before they were put on a cross. All accounts as we have them show Jesus alive after any torture he suffered, so we do not have to account for his surviving it--all witnesses already claim that he did.When Jesus was taken down from the cross, his legs were not broken (John 19:33) another sign that Jesus was alive. David Wood brings up the Romans doing a death blow to their victims, and in this case the Romans ran a spear through Jesus heart (See John 19:34). However it should be noted that
the spearing story is probably false. Several church fathers (Ambrose, Augustin, and Chrysostom in particular) understood this spearing passage symbolically, not literally: the blood represented the eucharist; the water, baptism. In any case, The account of his being speared is illogical and late. It appears only in John, the last of the gospels to be written (after 90 AD). There, soldiers decide not to break his legs because he is dead, and then spear him to make sure he is dead. This is contradictory and inexplicable behavior.So the spearing story is most likely an invention. The other two men who were crucified besides Jesus were also alive when taken down from their crosses so Jesus too must have been alive when taken down from his cross (See Mark 15:32, Luke 23:39-43 and John 19:32.)

Mary Magdalene herself testifies that Jesus was alive and not ressurected (Mark 16:11). After Jesus leaves the tomb he is laid in, Jesus is disguised as a gardener (John 20:15). This disgusie is only nesscary if Jesus was alive and trying to hide from his enemies.

The Gospel writers clearly show that Jesus had a phyiscal body and not a spirtual body. The annoymous author of Matthew says that Jesus was phyiscal having the women grovel and grab his feet as he speaks (Matthew 28:9).

When Jesus comes to the upper room he says Shaloom (Peace be upon you). Jesus proves he is not spirtually ressurected but phyiscally standing right before them, asks the disciples to touch him and eats a fish to prove it (Luke 24:36-53). The Gospel of Luke says this happened in Jerusalem, however the Gospels of Mark (the earliest gospel written) and Matthew say this happened in Galilee.

After the Gospel of Luke (written between 85-90 C.E.), the Gospel of John comes along (written around 90-110 C.E.) The Gospel of John has Jesus prove he is not only phyiscally solid but he had his old body by showing his wounds, and breathing on people, and even obliging the Doubting Thomas by letting him put his fingers into the very wounds themselves. Like Luke, the most grandiose appearances to the Disciples happen in Jerusalem, not Galilee as Mark (the earliest Gospel writer) originally claimed.All of this is good evidence that Jesus survived (again more on this later)

IV The Unreliablity of the Gospels

Another point brought up during our debate was whether or not the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were reliable or not. Are they biography? Are they history? No, not really. All the gospels are omniscent-- not first person-- narrators. None identifies himself by name, and there is no evidence that any of the Gospel writers were eye-witnesses to the event that the describe. And of course the Gospels were written in Greek-- while Jesus spoke Aramaic. As for the authorship of the four gospels, we don't know who wrote the Gospels and the gospels were written based on unreliable oral traditions. The following quotes from scholars testify to this:

The Oxford Companion to the Bible (1993) give the following information on their authorship:

   * Matthew: Written by an unknown Jewish Christian of the second generation; probably a resident of Antioch in Syria.
   * Mark: Notes confusion in the traditional identification of the author but offers no hypothesis.
   * Luke: Possibly written by a resident of Antioch and an occasional companion of the apostle Paul.
   * John: Composed and edited in stages by unknown followers of the apostle John, probably residents of Ephesus.

As for the dates of the Gospels:

Kee, Young, and Froelich (1965, p. 472): Mark (70), Matthew (85-100), Luke (85-100), John (90-110)

Burton L. Mack (1995) : Matthew (late 80s) (p. 161). Luke (around 120) (p. 167), John (90s) (1995, p. 176).

Editors of The New English Bible (Sandmel, et al. 1976): Mark (around 70); Matthew (about 90); Luke (about 90); John ("Shortly before the end of the First Century").

As for the Gospels containing fictional/unrelaible forms the following scholars tesifty to this fact:

This literature [the Gospels] was oral before it was written and began with the memories of those who knew Jesus personally. Their memories and teachings were passed on as oral tradition for some forty years or so before achieving written form for the first time in a self-conscious literary work, so far as we know, in the Gospel of Mark, within a few years of 70 A.D. But oral tradition is by definition unstable, notoriously open to mythical, legendary, and fictional embellishment. We know that by the forties of the first century traditions already existed which we would now label orthodox and traditions coming to be recognized as heretical--teachings about what Jesus said and meant that even then were being called (though in a different vocabulary) "fictional" (Helms, 1988, p. 12; emphasis added).

Each of the four canonical Gospels is religious proclamation in the form of a largely fictional narrative. Christians have never been reluctant to write fiction about Jesus, and we must remember that our four canonical Gospels are only the cream of a large and varied literature. We still possess, in whole or in part, such works as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Philip, the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and such anonymous gospels as those according to the Hebrews, the Egyptians, the Ebionites, and so on. Jesus is the subject of a large--in fact, still growing--body of literature, often unorthodox or pure fantasy, cast in the form of fictional narrative and discourse (Helms, 1988, pp. 11-12).

[A]ll the death scenes were constructed to show Jesus dying the model death and so "in fulfillment" of Scripture.... [T]he scenes have a religious and moral purpose disguised as a historical one; we are, with these scenes, in the literary realm known as fiction, in which narratives exist less to describe the past than to affect the present. In De Quincy's phrase, "the Gospels are not so much literature of knowledge as literature of power" (Helms, 1988, pp. 15-16).

Soon I will write an article on this, and why I believe the Gospels are not trust worthy information about the life of Jesus.

V. Pagan Influneces

Another topic which was brought up during the debate was Pagan influences on Christianity and allegedly on Islam. Briefly touching on Christianity, there were at least three Pre-Christian Gods who were crucified and then ressurected. The first was the the Thracian god Zalmoxis (also called Salmoxis or Gebele'izis), who is described in the mid-5th-century B.C.E. by Herodotus (4.94-96), and also mentioned in Plato's Charmides (156d-158b) in the early-4th-century B.C.E. According to the hostile account of Greek informants, Zalmoxis buried himself alive, telling his followers he would be resurrected in three years, but he merely resided in a hidden dwelling all that time. The second was Inanna (also known as Ishtar), a Sumerian goddess whose crucifixion, resurrection and escape from the underworld is told in cuneiform tablets inscribed c. 1500 B.C.E. [2]. So the story of a God dying and rising is not unique, its been done before. Mr.Wood tires to say that Inanna was hung on a hook, therefore it is not crucifixion. However that doesn't mean anything, rather the point is that story is very similar to the Jesus story told in Christianity.

As for any alleged Pagan influecnes on Islam, Islam completely rejects Paganism. Anyone who knows anything about Islam will know that the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) both reject idolary and pagan practices. The following Quranic verse and hadith show just that:

Say: "Will ye worship, besides Allah, something which hath no power either to harm or benefit you? But Allah,- He it is that heareth and knoweth all things."  (Quran 5:76)

Narrated Abdullah: When the Prophet entered Mecca on the day of the Conquest, there were 360 idols around the Ka'ba. The Prophet started striking them with a stick he had in his hand and was saying, "Truth has come and Falsehood will neither start nor will it reappear.  (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 583)

The charge of Muslims "worshipping" the black stone is a common one, and has already been answered by Shabir Ally. Shabir says:

Muslims do not worship the black stone. They regard the stone as a created thing. The most fundamental principle of Islam is that nothing or no one is to be worshipped except Allah, the one true God.

Muslims who can afford the journey are required once in their lifetime to visit the House of Worship in Makkah. This was the first house built for the worship of the one true God. It was constructed by Abraham and his son Ishmael, peace be upon them. The black stone was brought to them from heaven by the angel Gabriel to function as a corner stone. It was thus affixed in one corner.

Because Muslims kiss that stone, some observers hastily conclude that Muslims worship it. A kiss, however, is not an act of worship unless it is accompanied by an intention to worship. If you kiss your child, for instance, that does not mean you worship your child.

Some may find it strange that Muslims should treat a stone with respect. But this is not just any old stone. It is an item out of paradise.

The act of fixing a stone to mark a place of worship is as old as history. In the Bible we are told that Jacob, on whom be peace, had fixed a stone at a place where he saw a vision. He poured oil on it and called it Bethel meaning 'house of God' (see Genesis 28:18). He did this again upon God's instruction (see Genesis 35:1, 14, 15). No one should understand from this that God instructed Jacob to worship the stone. (Shabir Ally, Common Questions People Ask About Islam, p. 46)

As for Abraham and Ishmael going to Arabia and doing certian rites and such, the topic is too big to cover here, in the future I will write an article about the evidence that Ishmael and his mother went to Arabia, but there is tons of evidence that Arabs and Jews are related (*) (*) (*) (*).


I tried to cover everything I could here. Of course there is much more to cover and in the future I will try to add more on this, but I think I covered everything that needs to be covered. I just want to say it was a pleasure knowing both David Wood and Nabeel Queshi last month, I certianly feel I know them better now. We all went out for dinner afterwards-- which I thought was nice. One person wouldn't stop following me around-- which I thought was odd and when we were out all we discussed was polemics aganist the Quran-- which I also thought was very odd ( I wanted to discuss the new Wolverine movie or politics, etc, but whatever floats Mr. Wood and Mr. Qureshi's boat.) But in any case I consider both David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi friends-- and our debates about our faiths has only just begun. Its exiciting, indeed, two men of one faith and me of another faith-- doing our best to prove why our religions is the religion. Very exicting indeed.

So this was a very nice experience for me, and although I didn't win the debate-- at least now I am acknowledged as a Muslim Apologist and at least now I got my name out there. 

Later this year me and Nabeel will be debating Who Was Jesus-- another important topic for both Muslims and Christians so stay tuned.

Now, I feel I ready for anything they can throw at me.


[1] (New International Version Archarelogical Study Bible pg. 1661

[2] Samuel Noah Kramer, "The First Tale of Resurrection," History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Man's Recorded History, 3rd ed. (1981): pp. 154-67.


Archareological Study Bible: An illustrated walk through Biblical history and culture, New International Version, Zondervan Corporation Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 2005.

Helms, R. (1988), Gospel Fictions. Buffalo: Prometheus Books.

Kee, H.C., Young, F.W., and Froelich, K. (1965), Understanding the New Testament, 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Mack, B.L. (1993), The Lost Gospel. San Francisco: Harper.

         _____. (1995), Who Wrote the New Testament? San Francisco: Harper.

Metzger, B.M. and Coogan, M.D., eds. (1993), The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sandmel, S. et al., eds. (1976), The New English Bible. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wells, G.A. (1996), The Jesus Legend. Chicago: Open Court.

         _____. (1989), Who Was Jesus? La Salle, IL: Open Court.