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.”

In Sum

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!

 

26 Comments

  • Reed

    Wed | 24 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 3-2-2016 - 3:45 pm

    You accept that Jesus gave his teaching to 12 disciples, who are his authorized representatives. These disciples did support Paul’s teachings and took Jesus’ message to non-Jews (do a Google search).

    In Acts 15, we read that both Peter and James spoke up, defending Paul’s teachings, and all the apostles, elders, and the Jewish church agreed to send their own representatives with Paul (and Barnabas) to confirm their message.

    In Matthew 28, a resurrected Jesus told his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (See also Mark 16.)

    You wrote, “If one wants to follow Jesus, he must reject Paul.” If you accept this logic, then one who follows Jesus must also reject Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), because in Acts 4 we read, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

    I could go on, point by point, but my main point is that it’s easy to select some verses, avoid other verses, simplify and create “either-or” and other logical fallacies.

  • Reed

    Wed | 24 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 3-2-2016 - 3:58 pm

    On my comment above, that was actually on article 6, not this one.

  • Aataai Gazi Mahbub

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 2:44 pm

    The Bible does not tell us that leaders of the Jewish church including the apostles agreed with the notion of Paul. We look into the fact in details.

    Jesus` step brother James vs. Paul

    It is widely circulated that Jesus` step brother James who was led the Jerusalem Council until the Jewish revolt of 66 CE along with others permitted Paul to preach gospel to non-Jews. (The book of Acts 15:12-20) Later on, hearing the report what God had done among the Gentile through Paul’s missionary, James praised God. (The book of Acts 21:18-20)
    But, according to the New Testament and early Christian history, James never permitted the doctrine of the Gentilzation of Jesus` gospel. He strictly followed Jewish teachings as Jesus had taught, refusing Paulian teaching. That’s why; he and his followers were named Jewish Christian. Its best example is his writing named “James”, the twentieth book of the New Testament. The first verse of this book deliberately testifies that he in his preaching arena allowed only Jews. Such as,
    “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. “ (James 1:1)
    Then he rebutted Paul’s theory of “grace instead of working” and “no need follow the law” on which the missionary to the Gentiles was stand calling the Torah as a “royal law” (James 2:8), “law of liberty” (James 1:25). There was rivalry on religious doctrine between the two.
    Besides, interestingly, we see the anti-paulian sentiment in him, comparing the two:
    Paul`s statement:
    “yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.” ( Galatians 2:16)
    “Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. “(Romans 3:27-28)
    James` statement (reply)
    “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:14-20) …………..“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. “(James 2:24)

  • Aataai Gazi Mahbub

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 3:12 pm

    Paul’s Statement: Peter Not for a Gentile Mission
    Peter’s writings: no support for Paul

    By referring the story of peter and Cornelius (Acts 10 ), someone want to say that like Paul, Peter was permitted to preach gospel to the Gentiles. But Paul clearly stated before leaders of the Jerusalem Council that Peter was not commissioned for a gentile mission; his preaching arena was only for the Jews. As he said,
    “On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised”. (Galatians 2:7)

    Furthermore, it is to be surprised to note that Peter in his writings did not mention the burning issue of the Gentile Mission. His two writings found in the New Testament (1 Peter, 2 Peter) did not give place a single sentence in favor of the Gentiles or the doctrine of Paul.

  • Aataai Gazi Mahbub

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 3:18 pm

    Other epistles: no support for Paul

    Another book “Hebrews”, the ninetieth book of the New Testament, did not place a single word for the Gentiles or Paul’s mission. Opposing the gentile mission of Paul, it reminds us the missionary of Jesus was only for the Jews, not for the Gentiles. This book clearly mentions,
    “For it is clear that he (Jesus) did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.” (Hebrews 2:16)
    Except the letters of Paul mentioned in the New Testament, others did not welcome the Gentiles to the fold of Christianity. John’s three books did not spend a single word welcoming them. ( 1 john, 2 john and 3 john)

  • Aataai Gazi Mahbub

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 3:48 pm

    “go and make disciples of all nations.” (See also Mark 16.)

    Biblical scholars agree that Mark 16:9-20 is a later addition, meaning not part of the original text. Many Bibles end with Mark 16:8. So it does not need to comment.

    We can discuss Mathew 28

    Many bibles have “all the nations “instead of “all nations. (https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Matthew%2028:19)
    Moreover, God blesses Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, assuring them that their descendants in future will become ‘many nations’ (Genesis 12:2, 17:4-6, 28:3, 35:11, 48:4).
    Now we come to a practical example. When an America president says, “oh my people”, it only indicate the American citizens, not others. Accordingly, when a Jewish leader or prophet addresses all the nation, it must indicate the Jewish people, not the Gentiles.

  • Aataai Gazi Mahbub

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 4:11 pm

    “If one wants to follow Jesus, he must reject Paul.”

    Jesus must not be compared to Paul who is an apostate. If you want to find out the truth, you must reject the betrayer.
    Both Jesus and Muhammad (sw) are prophets sent by God. So, both of them must be respected, not rejected.

  • Reed

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 4:38 pm

    Frankly, I don’t know why you say, “The Bible does not tell us that leaders of the Jewish church including the apostles agreed with the notion of Paul.”

    Acts 15 states,
    7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

    Peter, the foremost apostle, preached the gospel to the Gentiles and stated that they were saved through faith by grace, not through the law.

    13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

    16 “‘After this I will return
    and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
    Its ruins I will rebuild,
    and I will restore it,
    17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
    even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
    says the Lord, who does these things’—
    18 things known from long ago.

    James himself states that teaching of Simon is in agreement with the “words of the prophets.” And that was that Gentiles are saved by faith, not works. Note, too, that James quotes the Bible as stating that Gentiles will become believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:

    The apostles and elders, your brothers,

    To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

    Greetings.

    24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

    Farewell.

    So, the apostles, elders, and whole church chose representatives to accompany Paul and Barnabas. Note that the Gentiles did not need to keep the Law but that they were accepted as believers. Obviously, the apostles, elders, and whole church accepted the gospel that Paul was preaching.

  • Reed

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 4:49 pm

    On works vs. grace, or James vs. Paul, we already see as quoted from Acts 15 above that James and Peter were in agreement with Paul’s message.

    Paul was fighting the Judaizers, who said that Gentiles had to keep the law and so he emphasized faith and grace. What James was fighting was not the message of Paul but the distortion of that message. Paul himself had to combat that distortion. He writes, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). And “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! (Romans 6:1,2).

    Pitting James against Paul creates a false dichotomy. No one can earn a place in paradise. It is through the mercy of Allah (swt). And conversely, good works without belief in Allah (set) will not get someone to heaven. It is faith that leads believers to act righteously. The Quran speaks repeatedly about those who “believe and do good deeds.” The two are necessary.

  • Reed

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 5:01 pm

    On ““Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. “(Romans 3:27-28)”

    Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “O people, repent to Allaah and seek His forgiveness, for I repent one hundred times a day.”

    Sincere believers do not boast. They have faith in the mercy of Allah (swt), not in their own deeds. Again, faith must result in good deeds to be real, but one who boasts about their position doesn’t understand the position is due to the mercy of Allah (swt).

  • Reed

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 5:12 pm

    On “all the nations” vs. “all nations,” if you’re not a scholar of classical Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, then you can draw no conclusions from the use or nonuse of the article “the.” You can only cite scholars who know all the languages. Let me cite The Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol 2):

    “The ethne mean all peoples, as is often made clear by the epithet panta, all (cf. Matt. 24:9; 28:19; Mk. 11:17; Lk. 21:24; Rom 15:11).”

    Note that the scholars of this book disagree with your point about the meaning of nations in Matthew 28:19.

  • Reed

    Thu | 25 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 4-2-2016 - 5:14 pm

    “If one wants to follow Jesus, he must reject Paul.”

    Jesus must not be compared to Paul who is an apostate. If you want to find out the truth, you must reject the betrayer.
    Both Jesus and Muhammad (sw) are prophets sent by God. So, both of them must be respected, not rejected.

    My point was that your logic was faulty. Of course, if one is an apostate, then that person must be rejected. But you haven’t done that.

  • Reed

    Fri | 26 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 5-2-2016 - 10:34 am

    “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.”

    Not at all. The early Gentiles re-interpret Paul according to their own Hellenistic culture because they did not have a Judaic tradition and understanding of the Hebrew Bible. Modern Gentiles have inherited this Hellenistic approach to Paul.

    Let me give a few examples, beginning with Philippians 2:6:
    Jesus “who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”
    The ‘form of God’ is a synonym for ‘image of God.’ Adam was created in the image of God, and Paul is often comparing Adam (the first man) to Jesus (the second man). Adam, and his wife Eve (Genesis 3:5), wanted to be like God, that is, equal to God, and tried to attain this equality by grasping the apple and eating it. Jesus, unlike Adam, does not seek to attain equality with God.
    Early Greek church fathers and some scholars take “grasp” to mean “hold onto something already obtained.” But the main meaning is “robbery” or a “prize to be grasped.” To use the “hold onto” meaning destroys the comparison between Adam and Jesus.

    Colossians 1:15-18
    “And he is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by him all things were created . . . and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
    Again, we see this concept of Adam and thus also Jesus being in the image of God. Christians take this verse as showing that Jesus created everything and so is God. However, they lack a Jewish background. Again, as Adam was created in the image of God, so was Jesus. Philo of Alexandria considered the Word to be a created being that was used to create the world. Rabbi Yudan claimed that the world was created for the Torah’s sake, while, according to Rabbi Akiva, the Torah was the instrument through which the world was created. Paul said he was a student of Gamaliel, a highly regarded rabbi. It seems that he identifies Christ as both Wisdom and Torah, and thus in line with Jewish teaching (but opposed to Christian understanding), considered the messiah to be a created being.

  • Linda Thayer

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 11:12 am

    REED says:
    On “all the nations” vs. “all nations,” if you’re not a scholar of classical Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, then you can draw no conclusions from the use or nonuse of the article “the.” You can only cite scholars who know all the languages. Let me cite The Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol 2)

    MY COMMENTS: Let me remind that the author of the source you quoted is working with a widely-spoken Greek and he is defining the Greek usage of the terms as applied to the New Testament. Jesus worked in Aramaic/Hebrew. Western New Testament scholars do not accept that we have an ancient, reliable New Testament version in Aramaic. We are a number of stages away from having a New Testament text that reliably, in detail, comes from the eye-witnesses of Jesus. A Greek translation of an Aramaic term not infrequently means a grave mismatch. Once you know that the opposition of “nations” and “the nations” has a history of different implications in Hebrew/Aramaic, you must factor in that nuance of meaning in your interpretation. If you find a conflation in meaning of terms translated “Gentiles” occurring throughout Acts, in particular (as the sequeway to Paul’s writings), that should raise a red flag and cause you to go digging in the most scholarly of sources (not a popularization of scholarship). It seems that traditional Christian scholars have ignored this detail. It may be a flaw that goes back to the earliest centuries. Missing this kind of thing can result in seriously skewed theology.

    The phrase “the nations” is a phrase with its own meaning. It is not simply a case of the basic meanings of individual components of the phrase: “the” + “nation” + plural {-s}. Also, adding “all” may or may not change the implications.

    If you BEGIN with the gospel of Paul (which indeed has been the message of the Church from early centuries) and assume that Paul’s gospel can be traced back to Jesus and that Paul agrees with Jesus in his theology, then you will interpret all of Christianity’s documents (New Testament + Patristic writings — maybe even the many pseudo Apostolic writings) in terms of that assumption. The Church took shape in “early” centuries, but is that Church faithful to the “earliest” centuries, meaning faithful to the pure and simple teaching of Jesus? That is what is at stake here.

    If you are going to assume that real “Gentiles” (leave aside “God-fearers” – who were more or less Jews by conversion, but not able, due to social pressure, to accept circumcision…) were part of the Church’s mission from the beginning, then you HAVE TO ASSUME that Paul agreed with Jesus. Otherwise, you will be forced to reject Paul’s legitimacy. You will misinterpret all the evidence to the contrary unless you know what you are looking at and put all of it in its original context.

    You are correct that knowing the original languages is key. You should take the opinion only of those scholars who have spent a lifetime immersed in those languages and its literature. this means classical Greek, Koine Greek, as well as classical Hebrew/ Aramaic and preferably Semitic languages in general. This is a tall order and narrows us down to a select few scholars. This is a tall order, but the stakes are high.

    It is also key that Jesus was a Jew, lived in an insular Jewish society, and that he had a mission to his own people. He even taught his 12 not to take his message to outsiders, even though he dealt compassionately with non-Jews who needed his healing touch. If you aspire to be a follower of Jesus, are you really willing to encrust and override the simple message of Jesus with orthodox Christian interpretation?

    Let me say this, to end on a positive note. I am into recognized serious Biblical scholarship. If you were to find for me in the unabridged edition of Kittle’s THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT a discussion of “THE NATIONS” vs. “nations” (hopefully to include “all nations” and “all the nations”) and a clear scholarly opinion on the meaning of these terms in the various locations in which they are found throughout the Bible, I would consider that opinion to be as definitive and close to the truth as humanly possible after 20 centuries.

  • Reed

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 11:32 am

    This will be a couple of posts. To begin with, I agree with your comments on the languages. When I used to study the languages, I read the works of scholars who knew all three languages. Yes, in the past, scholars ignored the Hebrew/Aramaic that the Greek text was based upon. In the last few decades, that has slowly, slowly been changing, but yes, again, there aren’t many scholars who know all three languages.

  • Reed

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 11:46 am

    I don’t depend on orthodox Christian interpretation. Paul must be interpreted according to first-century Judaism. The foundation, however, is an understanding of Jesus in first-century Judaism. Only with that understanding in place can we deal with the writings of Paul. Two points on which we seem to disagree are, Was the mission of Jesus restricted to Jews and Israelites only? Were the early apostles and Jewish church constrained by that restriction or could they expand past it? Although I disagree with your position, I don’t think it is implausible. Rather, I believe the evidence is lacking for the “certainty” with which you push your claims. Even if your position is mostly correct, you seem to argue more against orthodox Christian interpretation than for an accurate understanding of the texts. In particular, I would say that Paul never advocated for a divine Christ.

  • Reed

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 12:16 pm

    If I am able to attain access to Kittel’s work, I’ll definitely look it up. In the mean time, you might find work by members, such as the late David Flusser, of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_school_hypothesis

  • Linda Thayer

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 12:34 pm

    REED WROTE:
    On “Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. “(Romans 3:27-28)”
    Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “O people, repent to Allaah and seek His forgiveness, for I repent one hundred times a day.”

    MY COMMENT:
    i agree 100% that BOASTING is to be condemned. Sincere believers do not need to boast, as you say in the continuation of your comment.

    One’s attainment of faith is a result of accepting God’s mercy, as you say. And even that is with the enabling of God [according to the Quran]: God calls us all, we answer with requesting his enabling to respond to Him properly, and He honors us with awakening within us faith, by His will and mercy. We renew our submission to Him daily and moment-by-moment. Muslims do this [at a minimum] in a prescribed five-times-a-day institutionalized Prayer, which includes thankfulness to God, asking His continual guidance, submitting to His guidance and carrying out what we know clearly to be the acts (“works” you can term them) required of us. Those “works”/acts emphasize staying close/returning to God, kindness and fulfilling the needs of those around us (starting with relatives–believers or not), and bringing about a just and compassionate society, which will allow all to enjoy the bounty of their common Creator.

    When I read Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, chapters 1 and 2, I see an angry man trying to defend himself against accusations that he is misrepresenting the Gospel message of Jesus and that of Jesus’ personally mentored Apostles. He is claiming to be on the same level as those Apostles were and he is boasting [extremely so, in my mind] that the gospel message that he teaches came to him DIRECTLY from a risen-from-the-dead “Christ” (meaning Jesus: Galatians 1:1, 11-12) and not SECOND-HAND from those who were commissioned to disseminate Jesus’ teaching to “the nations.” He presents himself as speaking with divine authority and would “condemn to hell” [his repeated words in Galatians 1:8-9] anyone who preaches a message that contradicts his gospel.

    Biblical scholars put Paul’s Letter to the Galatians as the earliest book of the New Testament to have been written — with Paul’s Letter to the Romans as written later by one year, some would say; and others would posit up to more than 10 years later. After the Galatians experience, Paul has a different take on boasting when he writes to the Romans, as you quote in your comment.

    Regarding the above quote from Prophet Muhammad as recorded in the Hadith collections, how is this to be taken as boasting? Muhammad lived amongst a wildly independent and proud people, willing to defend the honor of their tribe and clan–right or wrong, and who did not take easily to the concept of submitting themselves to anyone else, including to God Almighty. Muhammad was telling them that no matter how guided by God he himself was, even he needed to submit himself to what God required of him and that he was to be the then-living model of righteousness that they were to follow. Muhammad accepted his personal role as prophet only over time, under pressure, not seeking it, and after repeated incidents in which he could not deny that this was his role imposed upon him through the visitation of the angel Gabriel. This Gabriel would come to him over the years with “readings” understood in specific times and places. Those recitations or readings, of course, were the texts which ended up in a non-chronological order as the “Quran.”

    Muhammad’s character was closely observed night and day, before and after he became recognized as a prophet, over the years, and NO ONE, FRIEND OR FOE, ACCUSED HIM OF BOASTING. On the contrary, he was known to be the most humble and trustworthy of men. One must read quotes of Muhammad in their original context, just as one must interpret the quotes and story of Jesus in his original context, time and place.

  • Linda Thayer

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 12:41 pm

    REED WROTE:
    If I am able to attain access to Kittel’s work, I’ll definitely look it up.

    MY COMMENT:
    You might want to own a copy of Kittle seeing that the 10th edition of the 10-volume set is available from Amazon.com at $120-140–a bargain in my mind. If you can find an earlier edition in a library, I have always understood that the earlier editions have more info and could be more worth consulting.

  • Reed

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 1:16 pm

    “Regarding the above quote from Prophet Muhammad as recorded in the Hadith collections, how is this to be taken as boasting?”

    I would never say that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) boasted. But it’s my fault that I wasn’t clear in how I intended the quotation. What I meant was that if anyone could go to Paradise based on their achievements or following of the Law, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would be among them. Yet, he was repenting and depending upon the mercy of Allah (set). Yes, his humility is well known. I remember fuzzily one hadith in which a companion said that the prophet had never said so much as “oof” to him. So, what I meant to say was that the character of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) confirmed the statement of Paul that “a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.”

  • Linda Thayer

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 1:54 pm

    RESPONSE TO A COMMENT BY REED:
    You [meaing AATAAI} wrote, “If one wants to follow Jesus, he must reject Paul.” If you accept this logic, then one who follows Jesus must also reject Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), because in Acts 4 we read, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

    MY [LINDA] RESPONSE:
    Since Acts is not written by a direct eye-witness of Peter’s speech — I would like to comment on a similar saying of Jesus, which I can more enthusiastically acknowledge as being closer to Jesus. That is John 14:6 in which Jesus answers concerns of his disciple Thomas after Jesus has told his Disciples that he/Jesus was “going away” from them. ‘Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.” ‘ Jesus suggested that they already had all that they needed from from him from then on (John 14:7ff.)

    That statement of Jesus, I accept as the kind of ambiance that any prophet would claim to offer those he was sent to guide with a message from God. Jesus was indeed the [one and only, available to them] model of understanding of Divine Teaching and of lifestyle for those who saw and heard him; he was a human source of divine truth for all who accept his story and teaching. The Quran honors a large number of God-sent “prophets” and “messengers”; the stories of select ones occupy something like a third of the Quranic pages. Jesus is one of the major prophetic persons sent by God, along with Moses, Abraham… Muhammad, we accept, as one of the illustrious line of divinely-tutored and guided prophets.
    “God Alone is Deity and Muhammad [too] is [His] Messenger/Prophet.”
    And we have for him quite a collection of well-documented record, in addition to an unbroken chain of transmission for the divinely-delivered “readings/recitations” designed to cement one’s continuing trust in God and to provide individual and society-wide guidance from Him.

    For Jesus to have said that “No one goes to [God] except by [Jesus],” Muslims would consider absolutely true for Jesus’ time, place and context. As far as the Acts 4 quote you mention, I would accept that quote also as representing something that Peter very understandably would have said with authority and genuine divine mandate to the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem in the context that the Jewish leadership were making a monumental mistake by rejecting Jesus as their legitimate divine voice of reform and for their own security of religious status (as well as political safety). Within a few decades the Jewish establishment had lost their Temple, the very center and anchor of their religious cult; they were they were in danger if they remained in Jerusalem.They had not heeded the pleas of either John or of Jesus and they suffered the consequences. And by the way, this is not to condemn Jews as a group; it is to observe history and prophetic claims interwoven with history of a people whose prophets and literary record make claims to their being chosen for a mission. Jews have the same standing and responsibilities before God (if not more) as the rest of us and the opportunity to trust God and to follow God’s guidance for our own happiness and success in this and the next life.

    We Muslims accept Muhammad as a divine successor to Jesus of the Gospel narratives — and to all the numerous previous prophets, all of them equally mandated by the same God (Quran 3:84), even those from whom we have little or no remaining reliable record.

    So, all of the above is to say that I would disagree with your reasoning (stated in your previous comment copied at the top) which I see as equating the position of Muhammad to that of Paul. But if you persevere in honoring Paul as identical in message with Jesus and Jesus’ 12 Apostles, then I can see how you arrive at this equivalence. But I would fault you for arguing from association and not from identity of message and personal character. I see this as the crux of the issue as to where the Church went wrong.

  • Reed

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 3:51 pm

    I wonder how you deal with 1 Peter. That is, it’s similar to Paul’s message
    2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood …
    3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

    We see mention of the Spirit, a resurrected Jesus Christ, being sprinkled with blood.
    I also wonder how you handle the resurrection because it’s mentioned throughout all of the New Testament, even in the gospels. Elsewhere, Mr. Mahbub wrote, “There is no reason to doubt that Jesus authentically instructed his disciples to spread his message to “all the nations” (Gospel of Matthew 28:19a).” This statement was after the resurrection.

    So, I’m wondering how you deal with the similarity of 1 Peter to Paul and with the resurrection.

  • Linda Thayer

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 6:02 pm

    REED WROTE
    I wonder how you deal with 1 Peter. That is, it’s similar to Paul’s message….

    MY RESPONSE:
    To be perfectly honest with you, I am quite disillusioned with trying to figure out who genuinely wrote what. Modern Biblical scholars reject 2 Peter as not having been written by Peter, but still accept 1 Peter. As you may know, a number of writings claimed to be from Paul are rejected by modern scholars as having been written in the name of Paul by someone else: 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, as well as Hebrews which was formerly assumed to be from Paul). Yes, as you say, the language of 1 Peter is like Paul’s language: Lord Jesus Christ – raising from the dead – made holy by his Spirit – purified by his blood.

    Regarding “resurrection” or more literally (Young’s Literal Translation): “the RISING again of Jesus Christ OUT OF THE DEAD,” here is my personal best guess: that Jesus was put on the cross — they did their best to kill him by crucifixion, but failed — but that he was able to survive that ordeal of near death through a combination of being taken down not quite dead (after a rushed, much shorter than normal dying period on the cross), his legs not broken, plus the herbal medication applied to him. He had several days in a protected shelter for the medicaments to work on him undisturbed. Of course, there was still something “miraculous” about it in that he was “raised” – “revived” if you prefer – (by God) out of a condition in which he was AS dead (just as Jonah was “as dead” when swallowed by the big fish but then came out alive (Jonah 2:6) after three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:40). See Quran 4:157 for a brief statement of what did not happen, but only a hint about what did happen!!!

    Now, suppose that it were true as Pauline Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, that God accepted that suffering and death of Jesus as “paying the penalty for mankind’s sins.” Did then, Jesus’ return to life after his body was as if dead and his breath/spirit had supposedly gone out of him, did that “resurrection” (=reversal of death) then mean a reversal of what Paul claims as “paying the penalty for mankind’s sins? How else can one understand the implications Paul’s convoluted argumentation? His argumentation was directed at Gentiles, perhaps for the God-fearers, not for knowledgeable Jews who would reject the validity of his logic (1 Cor 1:23-24).

    The talk of purification by blood (killing a live being in your own place) — how do you read that into words of Jesus found in the Gospel narratives? It seems to me that we are into pagan religion, especially the “mystery religions” so common in the Roman world (Mithra, Serapis, etc.) – also with the talk of [being possessed by] the Spirit. This is not the same as having an angel (“Spirit”?) come with a message to those of God’s choosing.

    To answer your question more broadly, I find a lot of things in the New Testament worded such that the Gospel narratives are made to mesh into Acts and the other writings so as to make them look as though they are of one piece. I’ve concluded that the efforts to create a “dynamic equivalence” translation results in skewing what is left of our only link to Jesus, namely the literal wording preserved in the NT Greek texts of the Gospel books. The Greek text is a translation of concepts and idioms, but it’s what we have. Words and phrases took on new meanings as the Church came into possession of the movement based on Jesus.

    Personally, I want to take as authentic as much as possible of the NT documents because I want to understand the maximum about Jesus, and those 4 gospels seem to be the most authentic and truthful that we have.. When I look at Acts I find a master piece of writing, but closely crafted so as to splice Paul into the story — with the Jesus/Apostles story “bent” through trans-language processes as well as through the choice of books which formed the NT canon. There are so many non-canonical books apparently from the early period. I hope that someday what is in the the Vatican archives will be available to unbiased scholars who can evaluate what ancient and decaying manuscripts they find there in the light of all the current Biblical scholarship.

    In the meantime, I can only say that suspect that the twelve Apostles obeyed the instructions of Jesus and took off in all directions across the Jewish Diaspora with short “home visits” – perhaps Acts 15 is one of those home visits or special request missions. I suspect that Paul had his own agenda and that the Church found Paul’s well-articulated writings convenient –and in the needed Greek– when it came time to form a Christian scripture. I do not take Paul’s estimation of events (Galatians 2:9) to agree with those of Jesus’ Apostles. I think that any silence or protest or “giving him the benefit of the doubt,” was simply left out of the final presentation.

    Hopefully I have responded to your concerns and at the same time have couched my answer within the broader picture of my understanding.

  • Reed

    Sat | 27 Rabi Al Thani 1437AH | 6-2-2016 - 6:25 pm

    Thanks for the detailed explanation. One point that might be of interest is that although blood expiation has its pagan parallels, it’s also found in Jewish literature apart from the NT. In 4 Maccabees 17:21-22, seven sons of a Jewish woman, who were tortured for God’s cause, became “a ransom for the sin of [the Jewish] nation. And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an expiation, divine Providence preserved Israel.”

  • idesireranks

    Fri | 3 Jumada Al Oula 1437AH | 12-2-2016 - 4:16 pm

    Assalamualaikum

    Peter, an illiterate Aramaic speaking Jew did not write Peter 1.

    I really think you need to check Bart Ehrman out.

    He also explains that the early Christians did start worshiping Isa AS once they started to believe he had been exalted to the heavens. Son of God for them was not taken in the generic Jewish sense but, stunningly enough, in the Pagan Roman sense.

    As time passed he was exalted until finally thought of as always having been divine instead of exalted to God status.

    This is why the first three synoptic Gospels attribute divinity to him but not ultimate divinity.

  • Reed

    Fri | 3 Jumada Al Oula 1437AH | 12-2-2016 - 7:42 pm

    Alaikum selam,

    It’s possible that Peter didn’t write Peter 1. I defer to the experts on that. I would point out, however, that being “illiterate” didn’t mean necessarily that he couldn’t read or write. The term “iliterate” was used also of people who weren’t trained under a rabbi.

    Bart Ehrman is excellent, and I haven’t kept up with this literature, but I can say that others have asserted that “son of God” was a term for those especially close to God and did not denote divinity. Longenecker, a conservative Christian, wrote, “It seems fair to say that, especially for Mark, but also for the other Synoptists, the vocative kurie (Greek) had no special significant during Jesus’ ministry beyond that of respectful address.” The New Jerusalem Bible (an authorized Catholic translation) concurs and states (footnote d to Matthew 5:1): “During the lifetime of Jesus, it is true, his disciples had no clear conception of his divinity.” You would think that conservative Christians would find deity in the gospels, and so many do, but these didn’t.

    Then, in rabbinic literature, we read that a divine voice calls Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, “Hanina, my son.” (“The whole world is nourished for my son Hanina’s sake; however my son Hanina is content with a loaf of currant bread from one Sabbath eve to the next”(bTaan 24b). R. Meir is marked by God as “my son” (cref. BHag 15b).) And in another place, we read that God says to Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha, “Ishmael, my son, bless me.

    As I’ve noted before, that there were strands of Judaism that believed in an exalted messiah. In 1 Enoch 49.2, the glory and might of the messiah would be forever. From Pesikta Derav Kahana (Supplement 6), “The splendor of the garment He puts on the messiah will stream forth from world’s end to world’s end. . . . Blessed is the hour in which the messiah was created! Blessed is the womb whence he came . . . whose lips open with blessing and peace, whose diction is pure delight, whose garments are glory and majesty … the utterance of whose tongue is pardon and forgiveness … whose supplication during his study is purity and holiness.”

    From these strands, it seems that it wasn’t difficult for divinity to eventually be ascribed to Jesus, but during his lifetime, there was no indication that his disciples understood that. Nor was there such an understanding immediately after the resurrection as indicated by Peter’s speech at Pentecost.

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