On Asia Bibi, a History Lesson for Imran Khan
I’ve always held the greatest respect for Imran Khan. He was a fantastic cricketer and cricket captain, and well known for his philanthropic work especially building and developing the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre; to make cancer treatment accessible to every citizen of Pakistan.
Since August this year, Imran Khan has been Prime Minister of Pakistan, with a focus on making the country a humanitarian state that seeks to elevate the standards of living of the less fortunate and where everyone is equal under the law. His Party aims to create a welfare state that gives attention to education, health, and employment. It promotes freedom of thought and works against religious discrimination – and that’s why what Imran Khan said last week is confusing.
While addressing a conference in Islamabad on the birthday anniversary of Prophet Muhammad on Tuesday, he said, “Moses got some mention, but Jesus Christ has no mention in human history.”  Khan’s statement is concerning for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it works against his party’s platform of working against religious discrimination and secondly, it’s completely false.
Inconsistent With Reality
Pakistan’s strict Blasphemy Laws have recently been in the news again highlighted by the case of Asia Bibi, “a Christian woman from a Punjab village who in 2010 got into an altercation with some Muslim women and was later accused by them of having blasphemed.” She’s now been acquitted but is in hiding for fear of her life.
Pakistan is the fifth worst persecuting nation in the world and is “the most violent country for Christians. Islamic extremists attack churches. Christians are abducted, forced to marry Muslims and even killed for their faith. Many are forced into hiding. The government doesn’t usually intervene.” Surely Imran Khan’s statement about Jesus will do nothing to help the already desperate challenges faced by Christians in Pakistan.
Jesus in History
Imran Khan’s assertion that Jesus Christ has no mention in human history is completely false. First Century historian, Josephus, wrote of Jesus in his Jewish Antiquities in AD 93, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.”
The Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ, “Christus [Christ], the founder of the name [Christian], was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius” (Annals XV: 44).
Suetonius, the Roman historian and court official during the reign of Emperor Hadrian wrote in his Life of Claudius: “As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [Christ], he expelled them from Rome” (Life of Claudius 25.4).
Tallus was a secular historian who, in AD52, wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Trojan War to his own time. The document no longer exists but other writers like Julius Africanus, who wrote around AD221, quoted it. He cites Tallus’ comments about the darkness that enveloped the land during the late afternoon hours when Jesus died on the cross. Julius wrote: “Tallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died)” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1).
Mara Bar-Serapion was a stoic Syrian philosopher who wrote a letter from prison to his son about AD70. He compares Jesus to the philosophers Socrates and Pythagoras.
Lucian, the Greek satirist in the latter half of the 2nd century, spoke scornfully of Christ and the Christians but never argued that Jesus didn’t exist. “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account …” (The Death of Peregrine, 11-13).
The Babylonian Talmud states: “It has been taught: On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu [Jesus]…they hanged him on the eve of Passover.” Hanged is another way of referring to a crucifixion (Luke 23:39 and Galatians 3:13).
Add to all this the recent discovery of hand-struck coins minted sometime between 33-47AD which have images and depictions of Jesus Christ – many which correlates to popular Biblical events including Jesus healing the blind man, Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead and Jesus being bound and dragged on His way to Pontius Pilate.
There are plenty of mentions of Jesus Christ in human history. Imran Khan could not have been more wrong. Islam’s Holy Scriptures also attest to the existence of Jesus,
“in the 114 chapters of the Quran … Jesus (Isa) is mentioned directly and indirectly 187 times in 93 verses.”
I hope that Imran Khan will correct his false statement, but I won’t be holding my breath. In the meantime, please remember the precious Christians of Pakistan, pray for them and pray for their persecutors too.
Rob Buckingham is the founding pastor of Bayside Church, a thriving faith community located in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.
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