"In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety," (Heb. 5:7, NASB).
There are a number of Muslims who state that Hebrews 5:7 teaches that Jesus was not crucified.1 They believe that the statement "He was heard because of His piety," indicates that God answered Jesus' prayer not to be crucified.
The High Priest and Psalm 22
First, the context of Hebrews 5 is how Jesus is our High Priest and Mediator. High priests would often offer prayers and petitions on behalf of the people of Israel. Therefore, Jesus as the great High Priest, did the same.
What Hebrews 5:7 (cf. Heb. 7:23-24) says is that God heard Jesus' petition as a priest, but it does not say that God spared Jesus from being crucified (cf. Heb. 6:6). In fact, the author of Hebrews appears to be alluding to Psalm 22:24 which says, "...But when he cried to Him for help, He heard."2 Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm where the Psalmist predicts the future death by crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah (Psalm 22:1-21; cf. 22:16), but ends in praise explaining the glories of the Messiah's victory (Psalm 22:22-31). Interestingly, Hebrews 2:12 considers this Psalm as referring to Jesus as the Messiah by quoting Psalm 22:22, "Since that psalm is messianic for this author (cf. Heb. 2:12), it is probable that he actually has the sufferings of the Cross in mind, as does the psalm. This would be appropriate since the cries of the Savior would then be linked directly with His sacrificial work."3
Hebrews and the Crucifixion
Second, the context of the book of Hebrews clearly teaches that Jesus was crucified as a sacrificial work (see Hebrews 2:9-10, 14; 6:6; 7:27; 9:11-28; 10:1-39; 10:10; 11:17-19; 12:2; 12:24; 13:12; 13:20-21). In fact, large portions of two whole chapters of Hebrews (9 and 10) are devoted to explaining the significance of Jesus' death for our salvation as our once for all sacrifice.4 Hebrews is truly a gold mine for understanding the meaning of Jesus' crucifixion.
The Triumph Over Death
Third, Jesus was delivered from death in the greatest sense, since He triumphed over death through His death and resurrection. The fascinating thing about Jesus is that other High Priests used to have to make sacrifices once a year in the temple for the sins of the people, but Jesus did a once for all sacrifice by offering Himself for all our past, present, and future sins (Heb. 7:27). As Hebrews 7:23-24 points out, Jesus was not stopped by death from continuing His priestly functions. Essentially, He triumphed over death by dying and rising from the dead and lives as our eternal high priest before God (cf. Heb. 7:21)! He made the once for all sacrifice for our sins by sacrificing Himself (Heb. 7:27)! Not only this, but God delivered Jesus from death by raising Him from the dead in answer to Jesus' prayer in 5:7. Essentially, Jesus completed the sacrificial system by satisfying the sacrificial requirement and triumphing over the consequences of sins, which was death. In other words, the high priest was a type of Jesus. Jesus ultimately fulfilled the High Priests role in a greater and more powerful way.
Brought up from the Dead
In conclusion, the benediction of the Book of Hebrews sums up the author's views about Jesus and His death quite well,
"Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen (Heb. 13:20-21; NASB)."
Therefore, the Book of Hebrews is consistent with the rest of the New Testament which emphatically affirms Jesus' death by crucifixion.
See Related Articles
- 1. See: http://www.missionislam.com/comprel/crucified.htm and http://www.answering-christianity.com/hebrews5_7.htm for just two examples.
- 2. John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, & Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Heb 5:7, Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983.
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. See Hebrews 9:11-28; 10:1-39.