By Douglas Anele
Shams went further to give a brief history of how the book evolved, beginning with the publication, in August 1939, of a leaflet with the provocative title “The Tomb of Jesus Christ in India.” After World War II, he says, the first edition of Where did Jesus Die? was published. Expectedly, the leaflet and book elicited different responses from Londoners, newspapers and journals.
A certain Mr. M. J. reportedly wrote the following as a response to an article on the author’s claims in “Wimbledon Borough News”: “The belief that Jesus did not die on the cross, expressed by Imam Shams, a Moslem, in your paper last week, is one which is even shared by some Christians.” Naturally, members of the clergy were severely critical of the two documents. But the April 20,1946 edition of the “Psychic News” took a neutral position; it published a picture of the alleged tomb of Jesus with the rider: “Here in Khanyar Street, Srinagar, Kashmir, is the Tomb which is believed by Muslims to be that of Jesus.
They invite investigation.” Chapter 1 opens with a discussion of the prayer of Jesus shortly before his ordeal in the hands of his enemies. Having discerned that his opponents would stop at nothing to terminate his activities by force, even if that meant killing him, Jesus and his disciples went to a hiding place known to them.
There at Gethsemane he tried unsuccessfully to keep them awake and earnestly prayed to his God to take away the cup of death from him. Shams argued that Jesus’ prayers were answered because (1) Jesus himself said so, (2) acceptance of his prayers were supported by the scripture, for example Psalms 22: 16, 24; 34: 19-23, (3) contrary to Jesus’ despairing cry of “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” God did not forsake him,
John, 16: 32 (4) all scriptures unanimously accept that God hears the prayers of the righteous. Shams maintains that Jesus wasn’t the cursed one, and proceeded to cite biblical references which tend to indicate that he did not die on the cross. For instance, Matthew chapter 27 says that at the resurrection of Jesus, the graves of saints were opened and they went into the city and appeared to many.
Shams rightly interprets this as a kind of vision which indicates that Jesus was not dead but was like a prisoner in the tomb from which he escaped to a safe place. Jesus likened his alleged death and burial to Jonah’s situation in the belly of a whale (Mat, 12: 39-40). Just as Jonah entered the whale alive and emerged alive, Jesus, according to Shams, entered the sepulchre alive and emerged alive. Pilate was warned by his wife who had a bad dream about the issue not to have anything “to do with that just man.”
This is similar to the story in which Joseph was warned in a dream to flee with Jesus and his mother because of the evil intentions of King Herod. The roles played by Pilate, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the physician, the fact that the legs of Jesus were not broken after the crucifixion, and the delayed trial of Jesus were, according to Shams, part of a divine plan to rescue Jesus from death. Chapter 2, with the title “The Judgment,” is a mock trial and judgment written by the author to make it easier for readers of the book to understand his main point (p, 8).
The litigants are Christians and Muslims. Three interconnected issues slated for adjudication are: (a) the question whether Jesus died on the cross, (b) whether he rose from the dead on the third day and (c) whether he resurrected with an astral body or with the normal human body. After two days of trial, the Christians lost for the following reasons.
First and foremost, the gospels on which they relied cannot be authenticated: the documents were not signed by the writers nor do they contain solid proof of being written under divine inspiration. More importantly, everything connected to the arrest, trial, crucifixion and purported resurrection of Jesus, as reported by the four gospels, is riddled with contradictions such that there was no way all the accounts can be true at the same time – in my opinion, they might all be false.
This is buttressed by the contradictions itemised in pages 9 to 14 of the book under review which shows that, indeed, the gospel narratives do not reflect eyewitness accounts of what actually happened. A few examples will make the point clearer. The gospel stories of how Jesus gave up the ghost conflict with one another: whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke stated that he shouted with a loud voice, John simply stated that after Jesus had received the vinegar, he said “it is finished,” bowed his head and died.
Also, whereas the first three gospels report that Joseph of Arimathea alone wrapped Jesus in a linen cloth and laid him in his new tomb, the last gospel (John) intimates that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did so. On the question of who was the first to visit Jesus in the sepulchre, Mark and Matthew assert that it was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary; Luke listed Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James and other women, whereas John says that Mary went alone. The gospels’ reports concerning what happened when the first visitor(s) got to the tomb are irritatingly different also.
Matthew informs us that “there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it.” None of the other gospels mentioned anything about earthquake. Mark writes that when the two Marys arrived, they saw that the stone had already been removed from the entrance. Inside the sepulchre, both women saw a young man sitting on the right side. The gospel according to Luke narrates that Mary Magdalene and others met two men standing on their feet inside the sepulchre, while John maintains that both men were seated, one at the head and the other at the feet.
To be continued.