Who Will Judge Gentiles who have Converted to Christianity—Paul?
Since it is the twelve Disciples of Jesus whom Jesus indicated would rule over the twelve tribes (‘nations’) of the Israelites (Part 5), the Jesus story applies only to Jesus, his Twelve Disciples and the Jewish people to whom he was sent. Who, then, will ‘rule over,’ or ‘judge’ the numerous non-Jews who converted to Paul’s message, that is, to what we now call ‘Christianity’?
Paul never claimed that he would take such responsibility to rule over—or sit in judgment of– non-Jews in the messiah-initiated world to come. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find that anyone claims that Paul has authority to do that. There is no evidence that Paul would ‘rule’ over anyone, either over the twelve tribes of Jews—together with the Twelve Disciples (‘Apostles’)—or even over Gentiles.
Of course, we cannot argue from lack of evidence. What we can say, based on the Jesus narratives of the four Gospel books of the New Testament, is:
- That Paul was not included in the circle of Jesus—a Jewish prophet, not a Savior of the World– the earthly Jewish Jesus who followed upon the ministry of [the Jewish prophet] John the Baptizer—who had called for the Jewish people to repent of their wrongs and return to trust in God,
- That Jesus gave his teaching to a select set of twelve [Jewish] men, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, and
- That if one chooses to accept the claims and teachings of Paul, that person does so without authorization from Jesus. The historical fact that Paul was accepted by the institutionalized Church in early times is reflected in the choice of documents which the Church had approved by the 4th century as rightly belonging to their Scripture.
Who will judge the Gentiles who have converted to [Pauline] Christianity? The Gospel narratives do not deal with this question, nor do the writings of Paul bring this up. All that we Muslims can say is that if Paul was the originator of a false ‘gospel,’ he will have to answer to Almighty God for falsely and knowingly claiming to speak in the name of God—indeed a serious offense both in the Bible (Jeremiah 23:16-2; Ezekiel 22: 28-30; Gospel of Matthew 7:15, 19) and in the Quran (Sûrat Al-Naḥl, 16:116-117; Sûrat Al- Ḥâqqah, 69:43-47). God will judge Paul and his followers for their acts and their intentions.
Paul: Master Builder of What? ‘Apostle’ or Apostate?
Although Paul calls himself an apostle to the Gentiles, can he really be a “master builder” or “foundation-layer” (Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 3:10) of the Christian faith —instead of Jesus?! Surprisingly, the answer is ‘Yes!’ because Jesus did not teach Paul’s message, and Paul’s teaching has become the center of Christian belief: that Christ died for the sins of mankind and that through believing this message, as taught by Paul, one’s sins can be forgiven by God. Yes! Paul did masterfully craft, lay the foundation, and develop his message, one that could attract large numbers of Gentiles—and still does today.
Paul’s claim to be master-builder and foundation-layer is possible only in relation to his own “gospel.” His claim is impossible in relationship to the teaching of Jesus, which instead marks him as a ‘heretic. Jesus’ message was not called ‘Christianity’; nor was it called ‘the Gospel of Jesus Christ’ –which is Paul’s trade mark name. Jesus’ teaching was called the ‘ Gospel [or, Good News] of the Kingdom of God.’
Jesus called his fellow Jews to obey the Law of Moses with a trust in God for their daily bread, as well as for their deliverance [‘salvation’] from Roman oppression. Jesus spoke many parables about the ‘Kingdom of God’; by these teachings he instructed his fellow Jews how to do what God requires. Jesus’ reform movement was expressly not for Gentiles, but for the Jewish people—who already had a covenant with God and an allegiance to the Law which God had given them.
Can one follow both Jesus and Paul? In fact, most Christians believe that they are following Jesus by following Paul! To clear this misunderstanding—since Paul’s message is actually opposed to that of Jesus—let us take a saying of Jesus as a master key:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. (Gospel of Matthew 6:24, Gospel of Luke 16:13)
This verse implies that none should accept together these two masters in his “Christian” faith–both Jesus and Paul. If one wants to follow Jesus, he must reject Paul; likewise, if one wishes to follow Paul, he will actually nullify his belief in Jesus. Two contradictory masters are not allowed. Therefore, Paul’s teaching must not be accepted over and against Jesus’ teaching of the pure ‘gospel’ message [Arabic, injîl] from God.
If one is to believe that Paul got the right to preach his gospel among the Gentiles directly from Jesus (Letter of Paul to the Galatians 1:1 11-12) and that he had authority to void the Law of Moses, then Jesus` ministry as approved by God would be wrong, or, incomplete: Jesus would be guilty of wrongly ousting the Gentiles from his mission, and also Jesus would be a failure at spreading God’s message among non-Jews, as well as Jews. Or, to put it in another way, if it is legitimate to invent a new ‘gospel’ as Paul claimed, then Jesus` gospel would become obsolete. And this would mean that Jesus would not have completed, in any meaningful way, his divinely-directed duty of delivering his gospel message.
That’s why John Dominic Crossan, a high-profile scholar of the historical Jesus, says that when you “start with Paul, you will see Jesus incorrectly; start with Jesus and you will see Paul differently.” (John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 1999, p. xxvii). The above is simply a politically-correct way of saying that Paul was an apostate in relation to the message of Jesus, not a genuine ‘apostle’ of Jesus.
Paul:’s Credibility in the Eyes of Prominent Writers and Thinkers:
- Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, wrote in the latter half of the 2nd century that the Ebionites—Jewish Christians existing during the early centuries of the Christian era—rejected Paul as an apostate from the Law.
- Bishop Polycarp, one of the earliest of the official Church Fathers, believes that neither he nor anyone was “able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul.”
- A modern day Episcopal theologian, Bishop John S. Spong, contends: “Paul’s words are not the Words of God.”
- American founding father Thomas Jefferson expresses his considered opinion: “Paul was the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.”
- American historian Will Durant says: “Paul created a theology about the man Jesus, a man that he did not even know, 50 or more years after the death of Jesus, with complete disregard for even the sayings attributed to Jesus. Jesus got lost in the metaphysical fog of Paul’s brain.”
- Irish pundit George Bernard Shaw writes: “No sooner had Jesus knocked over the dragon of superstition than Paul boldly set it on its legs again in the name of Jesus.”
- A. Wells, professor of German intellectual history and of early Christianity, concludes that Christianity was in good part invented by Paul–and accordingly that Jesus was a mythical figure.
- A 19th-century German theologian F. C. Baur, founder of the Tübingen School, says that Paul was utterly opposed to Jesus’ disciples.
- Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy claims that Paul was instrumental in the church’s “deviation” from Jesus’ teaching and practices.
- Jeremy Bentham, an 18th century English philosopher and social reformer, says it perfectly: “If Christianity needed an Anti–Christ, they needed [to] look no farther than Paul.”
We have given extensive evidence from Judaeo-Christian scripture that Jesus came into this world as a Jew, performed his ministry as a Jewish prophet, warned and made disciples only among the Jews, and took leave of this life as a Jew. He firmly repudiated any responsibility to the Gentiles, excluding them from his mission and ousting them from consideration as recipients of his message, applying to them the disparaging labels ‘dog’ and ‘swine.’ And he has given no information about how they are to be judged in the hereafter. So how could non-Jews be seen as intended subjects of Jesus’ ministry!
So then, what if a non-Jew converts to Christianity? Answer: He must be considered a follower of [Pauline] Christianity rather than of Jesus. Since it is Paul who invented his own ‘gospel’ for non-Jews, it is Paul who will be their master and the founder of their faith—even as he himself claimed, when challenged concerning the charge that his message differed from that of Jesus (Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 1:6-9).
According to the discussion above, a Christian converted from a non-Jewish identity should not be understood as being under the authority of Jesus—but rather under that of Paul; furthermore, he would not be judged in the world to come by Jesus or even by Jesus’ apostles. Accordingly, we have no reason to believe that the Christian convert is blessed by Jesus—but rather rejected as Jesus’ follower! In other words, the believing Christian has been hoodwinked by Paul and by those who preach Paul’s “Gospel of Jesus Christ”!
In answer to our over-arching question: It is not ‘kosher’ for non-Jews to claim the message of Jesus as their own. Jesus did not authorize extending the Jewish message to non-Jews; in fact, he spoke against this very thing.
‘Christians’ are those who follow the teaching of Paul (Acts of the Apostles 11:25-26)—the same Paul who mythologized the story of Jesus and crafted it to fit his own purposes. Paul has indeed been very successful: Paul’s teaching caught on in certain circles in his own day—and won approval by 4th century Church Councils, such that today Christianity boasts the allegiance of a larger percentage of persons worldwide than does any other religion.
May Allah guide us all and protect us from false teaching!