In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Missionaries cite Noble Qur’an 7:123-4 as an example of historical anachronism:
Said Pharaoh (to his magicians), “You believed in him (Moses) before I gave you permission. Indeed, this is a conspiracy which you conspired in the city to expel therefrom its people. But you are going to know. I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides; then I will surely crucify you all.“
This passage, however, is an abbreviation. The full statement uttered by Pharaoh is given in 20:71:
[Pharaoh] said, “You believed him before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and you will surely know which of us is more severe in [giving] punishment and more enduring.”
It is thus clear that Pharaoh was threatening to nail his magicians to tree trunks, not crosses! Why then does the Qur’an use the term “crucify” instead of just “nail/hang”? Well, in that case, 7:124 would have sounded odd. Since it was revealed before 20:71, its grammatical construction took precedence and hence dictated that of 20:71.
Furthermore, according to Ibn Mansur’s classical lexicon Lisan al-Arab, the root word of saliba (crucify) is s-l-b, which refers to the backbone and denotes hardness. This means it can also refer to impalement, resolving 12:41*. Khuzug (impale) is a modern Arabic term and didn’t exist in the seventh century.
wallahu ‘alim (and Allah knows best)
*Lack of evidence for Egyptian use of impalement in Yusuf (as)’s time proves little, for it could have been a relatively new punishment at the time. It became prevalent throughout the region of Mesopotamia within 100–300 years of Yusuf (as).