Atonement (Part 2)

The Light (Pakistan), 15th June 1922 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 13, pp. 1–2)

The event of the Crucifixion is briefly described only in the Gospels, which are the basis of the Christian faith. Therefore, when we want to study the history of the event, we have to refer only to the Biblical records, as there appear no other documentary evidence of it. Now, first of all let us see how far these records are trustworthy.

A cursory survey of the circumstances in which the Gospels were written and handed down to prosperity will establish the indisputable fact that the Gospels cannot be taken as the reliable history of Jesus Christ [AS]. They were not written in his lifetime; they are mostly based upon conjecture or supposition; even the accurate date of their compilation is not ascertained. Sometimes we are told that

“many are disposed to bring the date of the entire Gospel as late as 130 A.D.,”

and sometimes

“that they were written about the year A.D. 70.”

Thus, no definite date is given.

As regards the authorship, it will suffice to note that the first of the canonical Gospels is known as the Gospel “according to Matthew,” who was an Apostle. But it is certain that he himself never wrote the Gospel. It was written by some other unknown hand. The story of its authorship as given by a commentator is that very likely St. Matthew had written in Hebrew a book of “logia” or “oracles,” which is not to be met with anywhere except that Papias writing in A.D. 130 credits St. Matthew with the composition of such a book. Of Greek translation of these Logia, our author seems to have made such a liberal use that he acknowledged his obligation to the apostle by calling his work “according to Matthew.” This explanation is enough to prove that the phrase “according to Matthew” is a mere conjecture and not literally true. It is just possible that the un­known author of Matthew might have called his writings “according to Matthew” without referring to his “Logia” on the strength of oral traditions.

The next comes St. Mark, who was a companion of St. Peter and who, according to Papia,

“wrote all that he remembered (or all that Peter related) though he did not (record) in order that which was said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him.”

This speaks for itself. St. Mark had no first-hand information about Jesus Christ [AS].

Similar is the case of St. Luke, who was also not a disciple of Jesus [AS] but a disciple of the Apostles, and he is said to have followed Paul.

Thus, the authorship and the transmission of these records are so dubious that we cannot place any reliance upon the events narrated by them. Even the commentators of the Gospels are forced to admit that they are not free from interpolations, addition, and subtractions. Yet with all these serious drawbacks which are met with in the Gospels, let us closely study the event of crucifixion as recorded in them and see whether they support the view that Jesus died on the Cross and whether he knew that he was going to die for the redemption of mankind. We will do it in our next [issue], insha Allah.