Biblical and Theological Studies Faculty Publications

3 Ways to Help Muslims Understand the Cross

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The Gospel Coalition


Those familiar with Islam know that the Christian-Muslim dialogue of last 1,400 years has centered in part on a debate over the historical question, “Did Jesus really die on a cross?” The Qur’an (Surat al-Nisa’ [4]:157) implies he did not, while the Bible ties the gospel directly to Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3–5). Since sharing the gospel requires a Christian to speak of Jesus’s death, this point of contention is unavoidable.

Though the historical question of Jesus’s death is undeniably central, when it becomes the center of debate it obscures an underlying theological question: “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” The logic of Jesus’s atoning sacrifice is rooted in the Old Testament book of Leviticus as the author of Hebrews demonstrates. Indeed, neglecting the Old Testament sacrificial system may lead our Muslim friends to misunderstand our commitment to Jesus’s atoning death in at least three areas.


Death of Christ, Islam, work of Christ