Muslim reflection on the Cross is dominated by the notion of a substitute being crucified in Jesus' place - something never mentioned in the Qur'an. Reliant on repetition of decontextualized, lexicographical readings, it does scant justice to the spiritual depth and hermeneutical finesse of the Qur'an. Failing to note the ironic trope of the text, it conceptualizes the supremacy of God in merely this-worldly terms, reducing divine mystery to the mythical and the banal. Far from explaining Qur'an 4:157, Substitutionism obscures and distorts it.
John O'Brien spent 32 years in Pakistan among oppressed minorities, in dialogue with Islam. He is Associate Prof. of Theology (Research) in Durham University.