"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why I Like the Apostle Paul

Since meeting a Muslim for the first time in my life nearly 3 years ago I have learned many new things. First and foremost were details and teachings about this curious religion of Islam and some of the rituals, rules and cultural traditions associated with it. I've heard quranic recitations and learned bits and pieces of Islamic history. I've seen Muhammad revered and noted Palestine as "The Muslim Cause." (One Muslim lady from the US who spent over twenty years in Bahrain said Muslims she's known hold Muhammad, Palestine and Allah in highest esteem -- in that order.)

I learned that Jews and Christians corrupted their Scriptures and that Muslims are shocked at how fallible the prophets are according to our teachings. Apparently admitting people are sinful creatures is an insult to God's judgment in choosing people through whom to work. Who knew God could only use the almost-perfect crowd?

One thing I learned was how Muslims disliked the apostle Paul and how he was often blamed for corrupting Jesus' teachings. This was eye-opening to me in the beginning, but as I read more and talked more with Muslims I got a better understanding. Still, I have always enjoyed Paul's writings and wanted to make a short case for why I consider his teachings valid and worth reading. In fact as I was thinking of this question Sunday night before bed and jotting down a few notes, I couldn't help but be more convinced of Paul's message than Muhammad's. So if we are going to throw out someone's teachings as being opposite of Christ's, well, I'll be tossing out the latter.

Unlike Jesus whom I consider the only sinless example, Paul even as a follower of Jesus wasn't perfect. I've never seen anyone make a case for this so please don't misunderstand me and think I believe Paul isn't fallible. Like Abraham, David, John the Baptist and every other human who has ever walked on earth, I believe Paul was a sinner just like you and me. He never claimed to be perfect. In fact Paul knew all too well what a sinful man he was! I think this is why he appreciated God's grace more than most of us who don't think of ourselves as too bad as far as sin goes. None of the people in the Bible are made out to be sinless except Jesus.

We first meet Paul as Saul in the book of Acts. He was a religious Pharisee, a very type-A person - a go getter, a driven man. You can tell this by the fact that he set out to purify the religion. He didn't want any of these Jesus People to succeed in corrupting HIS religion so he even asked permission to venture to Damascus in order to round up these followers of The Way. He was known throughout this region as one zealous for his faith even to the extent of actively pursuing those who dared deviate from the Jewish way. In our terms today, I think we'd rightly consider Paul a religious terrorist. Anyone who persecutes others for the sake of their faith falls into this category and Paul was among them.

Imagine everyone's surprise when they heard of this terrorist Saul's behavior and shock of all shocks, he's now teaching about Jesus - the very one he hated so much that he went after Jesus' followers in order to stop "the Jesus movement"! Now my one Muslim friend told me that this was Paul's secret strategy to destroy Christianity from within. Paul was trying to infiltrate the Jesus movement, teach bad things so that the movement would be destroyed somehow. He was that dedicated to HIS religion that he would stoop to this. Yet when said Muslim friend read the New Testament with me several months later and read Paul's message and the life he lead fully sold out to the cause of Jesus Christ, he was forced to reconsider his stance on this. I don't think any man would undergo being beaten, stoned, thrown out of cities, brought before rulers, thrown into jail, being in shipwreck and so forth just for the sake of destroying the Jesus movement!

So what caused this great change in Saul? How could this man who persecuted followers of Jesus suddenly become so fully sold out to the cause of Christ that he simply wanted to tell everyone? Paul traveled much of the then-known world to share the good news of Jesus. Is this how someone who hates and wants to destroy Jesus acts? Also remember as a strict Jew, the oneness of God was ingrained in Paul as much as it is to any Jew or Muslim today who has a hard time associating Jesus as God. I do not think Paul could simply talk himself into something so far from his upbringing unless he was fully convinced. Indeed Paul says as much in Galatians 1 --

11I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."

Acts 9 recounts Paul's conversion. His going to Damascus on a mission to round up the followers of Christ when suddenly Jesus himself appears to question Paul. Visualize this if you want.

1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything

Notice that even those with Paul heard the sound. I've never heard the testimony of those men, however, it's somewhat proof that Paul was hit by something life-changing. For sure his life changed!

Next we see Ananias ... By the way, it was a great joy for me to visit Old Damascus last year and see much about Paul and Ananias in two chapels. (See my post and pictures from Ananias chapel here. And Paul's here.)

10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"
"Yes, Lord," he answered.

11The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."

13"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."

15But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

So not only did fellow travelers hear something when Paul was confronted by Christ, here the Lord appeared to Ananias with instructions about Paul. So Paul is already more verifiable than Muhammad and his vision since NO ONE that I've heard was there to verify the "Angel Gabriel" giving revelations to Muhammad.

Here is more of the story as told by Luke in the book of Acts.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" 22Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.

23After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

26When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

In the second book with his name, Peter warns about false prophets yet when he concludes his letter with a mentioning of Paul he doesn't warn that Paul's message is anti-Christ. Instead he writes:

15Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

So Paul's changed life was enough to convince followers of the Way who had previously feared this man. It was enough to convince the disciples of Jesus once they learned that Paul was preaching fearlessly in the name of Jesus. And it was enough to convince the Jews who formerly had Paul on their side! You see Paul went from being persecutor of Christians to being one of those hated by the Jews so that they sought to kill him! I don't think any infiltrator would put up with that!

So we see Paul telling others about Jesus. Though during Jesus' life on earth Paul was NOT one of his disciples and, in fact, considered the Jesus people as heretics, Paul was contemporary with Jesus' close followers. In fact he met with them from time to time. It was known to them, it seems, that Paul was being called to take the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. Remember before Jesus went back to heaven, he instructed his followers to share the good news throughout the world. Paul took this to heart and obeyed Christ! Since I am not a Middle Easterner and my ancestors aren't Middle Eastern unless we go wayyyyyyy back, I, for one, am very very happy God sent people like Paul to share the good news of Christ with people like me!

Paul's writings have offered hope, inspiration, lessons on inner joy, peace with God, being content and I love how he loves Jesus! Paul is the ultimate in dying to self and living for Christ. He didn't get rid of Jesus' teachings, but taught them to the churches he founded. He didn't water down the message, but continued to promote feeding your hungry enemies, giving water to thirsting enemies and overcoming evil with good! None of this reverting back to the old natural self's desire to retaliate and keep the cycle of vengeance going for generation after generation. Paul instructed us that pure hearts and lives are the work of God in us...not something we can do ourselves. This goes back to my dirty mechanic illustration the other day. Paul knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we need a Savior because we cannot clean ourselves. And salvation was a gift freely given by a God who is merciful, compassionate and the epitome of love.

Will I believe that salvation is something I can earn by being good and believing in Muhammad? Or will I believe salvation is given to me by a merciful, grace-filled loving God who is the ONLY Savior?

I am no savior. God is.

And this is Paul's message to me.


Amber said...

I remember the first time a Muslim told me that God wouldn't use St. Paul because he was a *sinner*. It just blew my mind.

Looking at the, 'destroy Christianity from the inside' theory of Paul, I think it falls apart when you look at all that he was willing to suffer. Sure, some people can be insanely dedicated to their causes, but he not only suffered torture, but eventual execution for what he was teaching.

Also, as you point out, the Apostles were still around and teaching when St. Paul had his conversion. While they did disagree on some things, nowhere do you find either party decrying the other as heretic or a false teacher. St. Paul and the Apostles met, and his conversion and teachings were accepted by them as coming from Christ. And really, they'd be the ones to know if he was bringing a false Gospel.

Susanne said...

Amber, exactly! Thank you!

Yes, when my friend read the NT and saw all that Paul endured, he changed his tune real quick. :)

I'm kinda glad God uses sinners to accomplish His will. :)

Suroor said...

Susanne, excellent post!

I will be honest that I was actually quite shocked to hear Muslims think Paul was a sinner or wanted to destroy Christianity! He is Christianity!! If Jesus hadn't appeared to him would we have had the Gospel?

I have had some experiences which shaped my spirituality, but I would still not go through all that Paul went through, really. There are very few people who stand up for their cause. I applaud St. Paul!

My father always taught us to respect all prophets, apostles and saints. He called such people "Godly" and believed that their bodies never rot in their tombs. I actually remember him teaching us that by giving names of holy people and I clearly remember him using Pope John's, Mother Teresa and St. Paul's names in his list.

I once watched a programme with him where some nun's dead body was shown still in perfect condition as if sleeping and it wasn't treated with ANY chemicals! When he saw it he said, "SubhanAllah! She must have been God's beloved servant." We were raised like that. I am shocked that there are Muslims who were taught to hate! OK, I see a post developing!

Amina said...


Another great explanation and ‘information packed’ post :D I hope I didn’t put you through too much trouble to write all this (I know you said you had a draft but whether that meant you wrote a draft now or already had one, I don’t know). Lots to comment on :D

One Muslim lady from the US who spent over twenty years in Bahrain said Muslims she's known hold Muhammad, Palestine and Allah in highest esteem -- in that order.)

I’m surprised at your Muslim friend’s assessment of the order of things that we esteem. Whatever happened to Allahu Akbar? God is the Greatest? He is of course (at least what we should) place first above everything else and this is what Prophet Mohammed stressed.

But is Palestine always on our minds? Not exactly (I feel we should be doing more), but we do lament the situation a lot (most) of the time. To me, though, it is only natural that we would feel bad, read up on its latest news, discuss it in family settings, political settings, etc. I believe it should be, just like the situations of all other occupied and terrorized nations, in everyone’s mind. We are witnessing atrocities, ‘apartheid’, ‘minor holocausts’ occurring in front of our very own eyes (btw, it was the Israeli Prime Minister last year who threatened the Palestinians with that very term!) and yet, again and again, we are seeing that the ‘victims’ (Palestine) are the ones being unequally blamed.

Actually, to me, those who dismiss Palestine (and this not from a religious point of view- just from a humanitarian point of view), have something missing from their hearts or are ‘ignorant’ of the reality of the situation there.

There’s this quote that I love that I think is applicable here:
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. [Martin Luther King Jr.] As fellow brothers and sisters in Islam, it is our duty to speak up about Palestine- the very least we can do is keep this cause alive in our hearts.

Apparently admitting people are sinful creatures is an insult to God's judgment in choosing people through whom to work. Who knew God could only use the almost-perfect crowd?
You know, I was one of those Muslims who was shocked at the Biblical accounts of the Prophets, but I, personally, don’t see it as an insult to God’s judgment in choosing people, but that we differ in our understanding of the role of the Prophets.

The way I see our difference is this- we believe not only that the Prophets (alyhum as salam) were supposed to convey Allah’s message to us, but that they were supposed to be examples to mankind, who completely lived by this message. Yes, they were not perfect (nobody is), but they were the finest role models we have. Maybe because you perceive that God ended up actually coming down to earth (Jesus), you don’t see the importance of the prophets as being ‘the best role models’. That’s the way I see our difference, really. We say that Jesus wasn’t God, right, so God didn’t come down to earth; to teach us, then, the manners and the way to worship Him and live, He chose the greatest people, including Jesus alyhee as aslam.

There’s another reason why I believe we place such emphasis on all of the Prophets’ characters. You see, we perceive that most of the Messenger’s peoples ‘refused’ the message in the beginning. They did not want to follow their Prophets; but God gave His Prophets ‘signs’ of their Prophethood- among the signs He gave them was their character. Think of it this way: would you follow a person who was telling you what to do/what not to do, if they were doing the ‘wrong things’? I mean I know that because of all of the “priest pedophile” scandals, I’ve read a few people say that ‘they were leaving the Church”. That’s the way many of us are- if our leaders aren’t doing right things, we feel disillusioned, betrayed by them and ultimately, some of us reject the message.

*continued and I will get to Paul, :P*

Amina said...

(OH, just noticed this. Suroor, Susanne herself said that Paul said he is a sinner. :D)

anyways, continuing where I left off-
And it is for this reason that we, at least me, are not shocked that the Prophets would maybe ‘err in judgment’ or make some mistakes- but the type of sins that the Bible reports that they did.

I can accept that Prophet Moosa alyhee as salam ‘killed’ a man-I can accept that he accidentally lead to the death of a person because he was trying to help a person who was being ‘beaten up’ so to speak- not realizing his strength, he ended up ‘killing’ the ‘oppressor’. He regretted this immediately, repented, turned to Allah, etc.-

But what we (or at least I) find ‘shocking’ and difficult to accept is that Prophet David in the Bible supposedly ‘murdered’ someone to get that person’s wife (that means he committed murder for his own personal gain)- the difference between murder and killing is that murder is a pre-mediated act done in cold blood. That’s the way I see it, right. And then, what I read at least, is that God had to send Prophet Nathan to tell him that what he did was wrong…
The idea for me, is, if I had been living at that time, and Prophet David had been sent to me, I would have thought he was a ‘hypocrite’ to be teaching us these Commandments.

But again, I understand your point that you rather like how God employs sinful people- and I can even understand you thinking that this would encourage people to follow the Message, etc. (I guess to me, I feel that it would discourage people from believing that the Message is ‘doable” and that what God wants from us is really not that hard to do.)

One thing I learned was how Muslims disliked the apostle Paul and how he was often blamed for corrupting Jesus' teachings….. Though during Jesus' life on earth Paul was NOT one of his disciples and, in fact, considered the Jesus people as heretics, Paul was contemporary with Jesus' close followers.

For me, it isn’t that I dislike Paul or because he ‘was sinful’ that made me ask my question (or aroused my curiosity) but that the fact that as you said in the above quote emphatically, he wasn’t one of Jesus’ disciples during his life time. (Later on in this comment I’ll address the fact that it wasn’t only Muslims who wondered about this…)

But for now, I was thinking about this– why are we so fixated on St. Paul- and it occurred to me that probably many of us Muslims have difficulty with this concept because of the amount of stress we place on those who were actually with the Prophet, saw him, lived with him, recorded his life, what the Prophet said about his Companions (for many of them, he gave special nicknames, thus we call Umar bin al Khatab, Al Farooq, meaning the one who can discern truth from falsehood, etc.) . Therefore, it seems rather strange to us that Paul keeps talking about Jesus but as we perceive it, that Jesus did not actually talk to Paul.

I was thinking it might also be our ‘skeptic’ nature’, hehe, that we have not only with St. Paul but the emphasis we have on ‘affirming that something was actually from Prophet Mohammed..

That is, we have a whole discipline called “Al Jarh wa ‘Al Tadeel’; this is basically a discipline which seeks to examine the sayings of the Prophet to determine their authenticity (in a scientific manner).

First, the hadith is divided into 2 sections: the gist of the hadith (meaning), and the narrators. Then, the meaning is checked to make sure it does not violate any Islamic concept. Then the list of narrators is exhaustively studied- it is checked to make sure that each and every narrator did in fact meet (e.g. if I say X reported that Y reported that S narrated that Prophet Mohammed said, there would be a study to conclude that yes, x, y and s all did meet). The entire chain or narrators are ‘ruthlessly’ checked- their character is studied, whether they ever lied, any situation that demonstrated they had a weak memory, etc. how truthful they were known to be, etc.

*still getting to Paul*

Amina said...

In fact, in our history, we had many people who would journey thousands of miles tirelessly to collect narrations of the Prophet and distinguish the true words from any alternation and then give these narrations a grade- it could either be ‘saheeh (basically A+), ‘hasan (B), daeef (weak/questionable), and mawdqoo (fabricated). One story has it that one of the persons who collected the hadith, Buhkhari traveled all the way to another country, thousands of miles, to find this one man who had reported the specific hadith (or something like that), but when Bukhair went and found that man, Bukhair found the man telling his mule/donkey ‘to come’ and ‘he would give it something’. Bukhair then saw that the man did not end up giving the animal what he’d promised it. Bukhair, then, instead of asking that man for the hadith, returned back home, saying that he couldn’t trust that man, even though, all he did was ‘lie to an animal’.

So this is probably the fundamental reason why we find it hard to grasp the concept that St. Paul lived in Jesus’s time but was not a disciple (actually was a religious terrorist) and ended up having such an integral part of the religion. We find it hard to grasp that “God” was there, “among the people” and He did not “actually appoint St. Paul or make him a prophet” and yet, his teachings are so widely accepted, and that Paul is considered an apostle. Also, I found it strange that St. Paul did not, as I have understood it, after his conversion, immediately run to the Disciples and ask them to explain to him all that they had been taught personally, by what he presumed had been the Lord (Jesus). What I read suggested that 3 years passed and then he went to Jerusalem where (I heard) that some of the disciples still did not trust him? But were convinced by someone named Barnabas or something? And even then, he wasn’t asking them to explain what Jesus said but preaching to people on his own?

As you can see, then, I was really confused and that is why I asked you to explain. I really want to make it clear that when I asked you the question, I was in no way asking you to choose between St.Paul and Prophet Mohammed- if by any chance you understood that from me. I was simply asking out of curiosity and because I really was a bit confused, given his ‘history’, why he was taken ‘almost like a Prophet’,

But now that you have explained this : 7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.

I can understand a bit more. It wasn’t only that he had a vision, then. It was that some people were witnesses to the ‘sound’. Too bad that you didn’t hear the testimony of these men, though. Anyways, also I understand that there’s the account of Ananias as well as Peter.

OH and for the record, I did not think that Paul's secret strategy was to destroy Christianity from within. Lol. I truly believe Paul really did ‘believe’ what he was teaching and not that he was maliciously trying to destroy Jesus’s true teachings

Amina said...

But actually, I do want to say that I see Christians, themselves, even accusing Paul of ‘infiltration', lol! See here: http://www.justgivemethetruth.com/zeoli.htm

And also, while on one hand, you have presented ‘your proofs’ for taking his teachings, I see all over the net, articles and books written by non-Muslims (Christians, themselves, theologians, etc.) all ‘discussing’ and ‘debating’ this topic of Paul’s authority in Christianity and his version of salvation with respect to Prophet Jesus’. For those of us who are not Christians, it is very confusing to understand and that’s maybe why we Muslims always ask about St.Paul.

Take a look at these sites for examples:



There are lots more websites and even books (you can try running Paul and Jesus in google books) that suggest that Paul and Jesus's versions of salvation were not 'always exactly the same'.

I particularly found this one website interesting and because he took the words that I had been trying to explain earlier on our concept of salvation (the kid example he offers here vs. filthy rags), I thought I would copy paste:

“5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments,
and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of
heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be
called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus reportedly teaches that behavior requirements (works/deeds), rooted in an internal change of spiritual growth within the person (not external or apart from the person, though the gift of teaching and techniques to achieve this personal change are a gift of grace not earned or deserved by us, but requiring ACTIONS [deeds] to implement), are integral to salvation. While perhaps it is not possible for us to "earn" the "free gift" that Jesus reportedly provides -- a teaching of the universal compassionate love by which the evil within us CAN be transformed into a more holy kindness of love -- the Jesus account clearly includes a behavioral component to his requirements for "salvation." While he does not say that this satisfies any "debt," he still requires it; perhaps he is demanding merely a small partial "payment" as a gesture of "good faith." (In fact, James suggests this by his comments in James 2:26, that we demonstrate our faith -- if it is genuine -- BY our works or deeds.)

Some will say that puny mortals can never perform enough good behavior to "earn" or "merit" salvation based on the value of their deeds -- that the attempts at human righteousness is as "filthy rags."

Aside from the fact that this simply contradicts Jesus, the point is not whether or not our puny mortal attempts at righteousness have sufficient intrinsic value. Jesus never says that compassionate deeds "earn" salvation, or that any of us could ever "merit" the very gift of our existence. He merely sets that as the standard for compliance.


Amina said...

Just as a child may offer its parents or grandparents an awkwardly-drawn piece of art, which likely holds little real artistic merit (perhaps in terms of art critics it might be as "filthy rags"), still the parents sincerely and genuinely cherish such efforts. It may not "merit" winning an art contest and may be able to "earn" very little, but loving parents find it good enough to represent the qualities THEY deem of real and lasting value. The point is that Paul sets the standard for salvation as faith or belief in accepting Jesus (see below) while Jesus explicitly rejects this standard (see Matt 7:21-27) and sets the standard at universal compassionate love expressed in actions, as noted in greater detail in the next few paragraphs.

Why would a loving god, as spiritual father on a more perfect scale, for those who believe him to be that, not be able to give even greater acceptance, even of "filthy rags," if sincerely offered as the best effort ... ESPECIALLY if he has said that he would do so?"

When asked by a lawyer what the most important commandment in the LAW was, Jesus reportedly answered (as reported in Matt 22:36-40 and Luke 10:25-37) with references from the Old Testament, that the GREATEST law was to love God (see Deut 6:5) and the second was to love your neighbor as yourself (see Lev 19:18). In the Luke text, the lawyer specifically asks what is necessary for eternal life (verse 25) and after Jesus references the two GREAT commandments, he says "This DO and you will live" (verse 28) -- showing clearly that salvation is related to works/deeds/actions, however important faith might be to motivating such behavior....

Another time during his ministry, Jesus taught that the people who would go to heaven (be saved) must be as little children (Matt. 18:4-5; 19:14; Mark 9:36-37; 10:14-15; Luke 18:15-17), while Paul wrote that maturity demands us to forsake the things of childhood (I Cor 13:11)…….

Okay, enough of that site. FYI: http://www.wordwiz72.com/paul.html But, anyways, ….let’s go on..

All over the net, also, there are long lists of quotes written by Non-Muslims that seemed to be skeptical/not appreciative of ‘Paul’s ‘version’ of Christianity. The quotes are quite interesting-
The one that is related to the above topic of Paul’s teachings being ‘different’ from Jesus’:

What did the historical Jesus teach in comparison with what the historical Paul taught?… Jesus taught that to escape judgment a person must keep the central teachings of the Jewish Law as he, Jesus himself, interpreted them. Paul, interestingly enough, never mentions Jesus’ interpretation of the [Mosaic] Law, and Paul was quite insistent that keeping the Law would never bring Salvation. The only way to be saved, for Paul, was to trust Jesus’ death and resurrection… Paul transformed the religion of Jesus into a religion about Jesus. (Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 1993)

Other quotes.:
St. Paul then, it seems, preach’d another and quite different Gospel from what was preach’d by Peter and the other Apostles. (Thomas Morgan, The Moral Philosopher, 1737)

Paul was the… first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus. (Thomas Jefferson , Letter to William Short, 1820)

...it is...a fact of history that St. Paul and his successors added to,..., or imposed upon, or substituted another doctrine for...the plain...teachings of Jesus..."
H.G. Wells (1866-1946)


Amina said...

I draw a great distinction between the Sermon on the Mount and the Letters of Paul. They are a graft on Christ’s teaching, his own gloss apart from Christ’s own experience. (Mahatma Gandhi, Discussion on Fellowship, 1928)

In Christ the religious is completely present-tense; in Paul it is already on the way to becoming doctrine. One can imagine the rest!… This trend has been kept up for God knows how many centuries… When Jesus Christ lived, he was indeed the prototype. The task of faith is… to imitate Christ, become a disciple. Then Christ dies. Now, through the Apostle Paul, comes a basic alteration… He draws attention away from imitation and fixes it decisively upon the death of Christ the Atoner… What Luther failed to realize is that the true situation is that the Apostle has already degenerated by comparison with the Gospel… It becomes the disciple who decides what Christianity is, not the master, not Christ but Paul… [who] threw Christianity away completely, turning it upside down, getting it to be just the opposite of what it is in the [genuine] Christian proclamation. (Søren Kierkegaard, The Journals, 1849)

John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695): It is not in the epistles we are to learn what are the fundamental articles of faith, where they are promiscuously and without distinction mixed with other truths.... We shall find and discern those great and necessary points best in the preaching of our Savior and the Apostles ... out of the history of the evangelists.

As far as Paul is concerned, in the Apocalypse (Rev. 21:14) only the names of the twelve apostles are found on the foundations of the New Jerusalem— there is no room for Paul… For Justin (Martyr in the mid-second century), everything is based on the gospel tradition…. The name of Paul is nowhere mentioned by Justin… not only is his name lacking, but also any congruence with his epistles… If one may be allowed to speak rather pointedly, the apostle Paul was the only arch-heretic known to the apostolic age… We must look to the circle of the twelve apostles to find the guardians of the most primitive information about the life and preaching of the Lord… This treasure lies hidden in the synoptic gospels. (Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 1934)
Paul created a theology of which none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ… Through these interpretations Paul could neglect the actual life and sayings of Jesus, which he had not directly known… He had replaced conduct with creed as the test of virtue. It was a tragic change. (Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, 1944)

Paul: he’s in the Bible too. He is the fellow who theologized Christ almost out of Christianity. Look out for him. (Robert Frost, A Masque of Mercy, 1947)

You might not believe me, but that isn’t even HALF the list! You can see an even more detailed list of quotes here:


Amina said...

So, I think, it's only fair to realize that it's not only Muslims, at all! And that, it should be obvious then, if Christians are 'confused', we would be, too! Hehe!

I noticed also somewhere in the post that you say that when Prophet Mohammed first received revelation, nobody was around with him. That is true. I’m not sure if you are aware, though, that the Prophet’s Companions reported seeing the arch-angel Gabriel in the human form?

'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him said, "While we (a group) were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, one day a man came up to us whose clothes were extremely white, whose hair was extremely black, upon whom traces of travelling could not be seen, and whom none of us knew, until he sat down close to the Prophet, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, so that he rested his knees upon his knees and placed his two hands upon his thighs and said, 'Muhammad, tell me about Islam.' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, said, 'Islam is that you bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the Zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the hajj of the House if you are able to take a way to it.' He said, 'You have told the truth,' and we were amazed at him asking him and [then] telling him that he told the truth . He said, 'Tell me about iman.' He said, 'That you affirm Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you affirm the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.' He said, 'You have told the truth.' He said, 'Tell me about ihsan.' He said, 'That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you don't see Him then truly He sees you.' He said, 'Tell me about the Hour.' He said, 'The one asked about it knows no more than the one asking.' He said, 'Then tell me about its tokens.' He said, 'That the female slave should give birth to her mistress, and you see poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in making tall buildings [note by me- like the Arabs are now doing! Did you hear about the Burj Khalifa? .]' He went away, and I remained some time. Then Prophet Muhammed asked, 'Umar, do you know who the questioner was?' I said, 'Allah and His Messenger know best.' He said, 'He was Jibril who came to you to teach you your deen'."

So while you accept the ‘sound’ that people heard, I accept ‘what the Prophet’s Companions said they saw’. Again, notice how this person seemed to be ‘quizzing’ the Prophet on Islam and affirming that he got the questions right.

I’ve also previously told you this before (copy pasting my own writings, hehe):

Tthe Companions of the Prophet recorded many miracles that they witnessed personally of the Prophet. These include: water flowing from between his fingers (remember, he lived in the desert where water was scarce), increasing the quantity of food and water, stones greeting him as the Messenger of God, the poisoned leg of roasted sheep telling him that it was poisoned and not to eat it, trees walking towards him, two trees that were far apart coming together and then parting again, his touching of a barren [and therefore dry] sheep and it overflowing with milk…there are many more, including:

Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Ibn `Umar who said: The Prophet used to deliver his sermons while standing beside a trunk of a date-palm. When he had the pulpit made, he used it instead [leaving the trunk]. The trunk started crying and the Prophet went to it, rubbing his hand over it (to stop its crying).

Amina said...

I’m too lazy to get you the specific accounts of these miracles and the other miracles but there are specific testimonials and incidents, much more detailed than I have written. For example, one example of the food being increased is the account of Jabir who 1) had to pay off his father’s debts and only had some dates (the Prophet invoked Allah’s name on the dates and they increased dramatically enough for him to pay off the debtors and still have the same amount.

Also there is one that I find very interesting because 1,400 people witnessed it:
Narrated Al-Bara:

We were one-thousand-and-four-hundred persons on the day of Al-Hudaibiya (Treaty), and (at) Al-Hudaibiya (there) was a well. We drew out its water not leaving even a single drop. The Prophet sat at the edge of the well and asked for some water with which he rinsed his mouth and then he threw it out into the well. We stayed for a short while and then drew water from the well and quenched our thirst, and even our riding animals drank water to their satisfaction.

Volume 1, Book 7, Number 340:
So, in the end, it is a matter of faith for both of us. Both of us did not see the people, but we have to take that leap of faith. You see that Paul endured so much and I see that Prophet Mohammed endured so much. Again, I wasn’t trying to ask you to justify your belief in St. Paul and your disbelief in Prophet Mohammed nor was I trying to tell you to accept him as you accept Paul. I was just asking to ‘understand’ better.

Thank you so much for writing that and sharing it with us.

Suroor said...


Of course Paul called himself a sinner because that was his humility. He also sinned according to him when he was against Christianity.

But do Christians think he was a sinner, Susanne?

The history of Christianity is full of examples of holy men being killed for supporting Jesus. Jesus was himself killed for his belief. I can't recall any man going through that much for God and sticking to his beliefs till the end in any religious history.

I have heard some former Christians say awful things about Paul, but it is a tricky thing. I would say "judge not, lest ye be judged." I think any man or woman who endures hardships for God and His creatures is a good person, holy and kind.

Suroor said...

One Muslim lady from the US who spent over twenty years in Bahrain said Muslims she's known hold Muhammad, Palestine and Allah in highest esteem (in that order).

I actually forgot to address this and Sarira’s comment reminded me. In all of my life I have personally neither heard of nor met a Muslim who holds “Muhammad, Palestine and Allah in highest esteem in that order.” Honestly. I agree that Muhammad is VERY important to Islam; that there is no Islam without him and that on average a Muslim blesses him more than two dozen times a day during salah and five times a day the call to prayer not only attests there is one God, but also that Muhammad was a prophet. To a non-Muslim that does seem like an obsession with the attestation and blessing, I agree, and people have told me that. But, Allah is the reason Muhammad is in Islam. A Muslim spends the entire day reciting MashAllah, SubhanAllah, InshAllah, Allahu akbar. I think any person who can’t see this is blind or spastic :D

Suroor said...

Sarira, I hadn’t read all your comments earlier, but now that I have I should point out that the people you have quoted against Paul are not Christian. Ehrman is a scholar of the Bible but not Christian. He is like Ibn Warraq :) Would I listen to Hamza Yusuf about Islam or Ibn Warraq – both a super smart and both know the religion? Ibn Warraq like Ehrman grew up in the religion, and was a conservative Muslim before leaving it and writing books to disprove Islam and the Quran. Ehrman does the same.

Jefferson was a Universalist and like me he was strange because he accepted all religions and dispelled them all too, LOL. In fact he was bold enough to state “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” What serious Christian would say that?

Wells too was a Universalist. Thomas Morgan was deist. Gandhi was Jain. Søren Kierkegaard was an atheist. Walter Bauer and John Locke both held Universalist beliefs. Will Durant was a believer in Darwinism. Robert Frost was an atheist too in later life.

None of the men on that list were Christian when they wrote against Paul and some of them said similar things about other religious people.

Amina said...

OH thank you Suroor, I wasn't aware that they weren't Christian. Jazaki Allah for sharing!

Btw, I didn't mean anything by these quotes- this in NO WAY mans that Paul was bad! I mean, I hear CRAP about Prophet Mohammed-

I was just trying to explain that it wasn't only Muslims who questioned his position ;)

But, Allah is the reason Muhammad is in Islam. A Muslim spends the entire day reciting MashAllah, SubhanAllah, InshAllah, Allahu akbar. I think any person who can’t see this is blind or spastic :D
I love this <3 <3

Suroor said...

Sarira, I loved your comments. I don’t think at all that you were trying to show that Paul was bad.

Oh this so strange, I was thinking about Paul and Bukhari in the shower!

I’ll be honest, I find Paul quite strange. I will however, not call him a self-serving person who did not have genuine interest in what was important to Jesus.

I had similar feelings for Bukhari (that is why I was comparing them) and I felt at times Bukhari put Islam in a bad light by quoting certain strange ahadith, but then I realised that no matter what, Bukhari sincerely loved Islam and the Prophet and he was doing his best. He too was not a contemporary of Muhammad, being 200 years younger than him.

I was actually quite wary of Bukhari once I found out why he was fired from his job as the grand mufti of Bukhara :-D Bukhari was not only fired from his job but was also asked to leave Bukhara after he gave a fatwa that two human babies who drank the milk of the same farm animal became milk-siblings! According to that fatwa, my whole family is related through milk-sharing, even my husband and I because we drink from the same carton of milk! :-D But seriously, how many of us ever question Bukhari’s knowledge, wisdom or authority even after this bizarre fatwa? He is, even after 1200 years, the most prominent Sunni authority on hadith and I have had Muslims fight with me over a hadith from Bukhari even if it went against the accepted character of the Prophet! These Muslims know the Prophet through Bukhari.

And there are people who will support Paul because they know Jesus through him.

I say fair enough. All Hail Thomas Jefferson! :D Haha!

Susanne said...

Suroor, I do think Paul was a sinner just like all the rest of us. What is shocking to me is when Muslims believe God can ONLY use perfect (or almost-perfect) people. That's the surprising thing! Actually so far I've not seen any evidence of that in the Quran. I think it's Muslim innovation.

"If Jesus hadn't appeared to him would we have had the Gospel?"

I don't know. Paul's letters were written prior to the gospels as he established churches in places like Thessalonica, Corith, Rome, Philippi, Ephesus and so forth. So the doctrine he preached must not have been too far off-base since even Peter spoke of him NOT as one of the false prophets to be wary of. I admire Paul's zeal and LOVE for Jesus. I think this is what drove him. He loved Jesus enough to obey him and tell others about the peace with God and joy they could have with him.

"There are very few people who stand up for their cause."

So true! A lot of us talk big, but Paul performed big! He obeyed and suffered much yet called it little compared to the blessing of knowing that others knew of Jesus.

"I am shocked that there are Muslims who were taught to hate! OK, I see a post developing!"

Oh, can't wait to see that one! I love how your father taught you all. He seems so precious!

Susanne said...

Sarira, no, you didn't put me to much trouble. Your question coincided with another one elsewhere and as I reflected on things and prayed for guidance, the notes just came together Sunday evening. Monday morning I woke up and wrote what I did. I kept it in Gmail drafts for a day to reread and tweak just a bit, but it was no trouble. I felt God wanted me to write it and He gave me the words to say. It was an honor for me to share my thoughts of Paul. I know not everyone likes him, but I do. So I wanted to share why I valued the message he taught and why I am happy people like him cared enough to share the good news of Jesus with the world. :)

"I’m surprised at your Muslim friend’s assessment of the order of things that we esteem. Whatever happened to Allahu Akbar? God is the Greatest?"

What people say and how they LIVE are often very different. She was merely stating her assessment of Muslims and their loyalties.

"'In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'"

Loved this!

Thanks for sharing what you did about prophets. I do understand they are role models of sorts, but I still think role models sin. It's not to say they don't have important things to share. They just are humans. Anyway, we don't really consider all of the ones prophets that you do. David and Solomon were kings of Israel. Not exactly prophets. David didn't come with any new messages, but just the same Law Moses had that the Israelites lived by. And if Muhammad wanted to be a good role model, he wouldn't have had special privileges that no one else of his day was afforded. The BEST leaders lead by EXAMPLE not by exception to the rules, right? So we just have different people as prophets and views of how perfect they must be.

"(I guess to me, I feel that it would discourage people from believing that the Message is ‘doable” and that what God wants from us is really not that hard to do.)"

When people see David sinned AND the consequences of his sin (his daughter was raped by a half brother; this son was then killed by the girl's brother; another son tried to take over David's throne; the baby died) we learn quite well that SIN IS WRONG and has dire consequences! You know what it teaches me? Don''t commit adultery. Don't murder. Sin is serious business. So I learn the lesson quite well, in fact!

Susanne said...

"Therefore, it seems rather strange to us that Paul keeps talking about Jesus but as we perceive it, that Jesus did not actually talk to Paul."

We believe as Paul told the Galatian church that he received his calling and teachings by the revelation of Jesus Christ. We have the Holy Spirit who teaches us the spiritual things. As we read the Scriptures, He makes it come alive to us. He teaches us and guides us through life. He gives us power to love our enemies and return good for evil. He is the one whom Jesus said would come dwell with us when Jesus went back to the Father. Read these carefully.

From John 14

16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you

From John 16

13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

So you can see that the Spirit of God actually teaches us, therefore, Paul was taught this way and we can also be taught by the Spirit.

I think the Spirit of God is even a better plan than the hadith testing plan you all have devised to figure out authentic or weak hadiths. But I understand after reading all the trouble you all went to, why this is so foreign to you. Really, it's hard to trust the Spirit of God when you have your scientific method of figuring out things. I believe Muslims have gone way too far in idolizing Muhammad. My word, why in the world is copying Muhammad entering, using and cleaning himself after using the bathroom important? Why were people even watching him do this? It's disgusting! No one should be watching another use the bathroom! :)

Susanne said...

Yes, I know you never asked me to choose between Paul and Muhammad. It was just as I was thinking of Paul, I got to thinking how FOR ME there was more proof of his message than Muhammad's since Muhammad is only confirmed by the Quran which HE happened to come up with (initial 'revelations'). At least with Paul there were outside witnesses and the dramatic life change. Plus he performed many miracles like Jesus and his disciples did. I didn't mention that in my post, but that's something Paul was able to do by the power of God.

"OH and for the record, I did not think that Paul's secret strategy was to destroy Christianity from within. "

That was Samer...the brat! ;-P

"(In fact, James suggests this by his comments in James 2:26, that we demonstrate our faith -- if it is genuine -- BY our works or deeds.)"

I totally agree. Faith without works is not a living faith. A true faith works. But not to earn salvation. Simply because a fruit tree produces fruit. Therefore a person walking with Christ produces Christlike deeds. We work BECAUSE OF our salvation, NOT to earn it.

"Another time during his ministry, Jesus taught that the people who would go to heaven (be saved) must be as little children (Matt. 18:4-5; 19:14; Mark 9:36-37; 10:14-15; Luke 18:15-17), while Paul wrote that maturity demands us to forsake the things of childhood (I Cor 13:11)……."

Yes, we have faith like a child. Children would accept the Trinity and Jesus coming to rescue us even though it didn't logically make sense. Children simply trust God even though their little brains can't fully grasp Him. Adults try to make God small by fitting Him into their logic. Adults think God must fit into their small brains and thus make God small. Children have faith and can imagine God as the big God that He is.

We accept Christ by faith as a little child, but we grow into maturity as Paul stated. We don't stay children, but grow in our faith so we can tell others about it.

Susanne said...

Really, if we want to play the quotes off the net thing, I'm sure we both can find plenty to support our positions. :-) But I won't start looking for stuff against Islam since I don't really want to play that game. My point was to share with you why Paul's message was valid for me. Why I accept it before I accept Muhammad's. It wasn't to convince everyone out there who is convinced another way.

For the record, Paul said we are saved through faith in Jesus, but he knew a saving faith worked. He told us to feed our enemies and give them water to drink and overcome evil with good just as Jesus did.

Thank you for sharing the miracles of Muhammad. I haven't seen them mentioned in the Quran yet. I have seen God assure Muhammad that he didn't need to perform miralces. That he would vouch for Muhammad. So the miracles you shared were interesting. Why didn't the Quran say so?! (Of course I've only read 33 chapters so far.)

I appreciate your reply. Lots of good comments! Thanks much! :)

Susanne said...


"I have heard some former Christians say awful things about Paul, but it is a tricky thing. I would say "judge not, lest ye be judged." I think any man or woman who endures hardships for God and His creatures is a good person, holy and kind."

Ah, you put me to shame. I need to get this in mind as well especially when talking about Muhammad. Thank you for stepping on my toes in a good way. I need reminders especially after reading sura 33 today. It made me sooooooooo mad! I will have to really edit my notes before I post them...you challenge me to do this!

"But, Allah is the reason Muhammad is in Islam. A Muslim spends the entire day reciting MashAllah, SubhanAllah, InshAllah, Allahu akbar. I think any person who can’t see this is blind or spastic :D"

I think she meant Muslims get upset over these things the most. Muhammad being drawn on Facebook, cartoons, etc. You know the person who said it. Maybe she IS blind or spastic. ;-)

"These Muslims know the Prophet through Bukhari.

And there are people who will support Paul because they know Jesus through him."

Thanks for sharing that. Interesting. So really Bukhari is even less reliable as reporting Muhammad's sayings than Paul Jesus's. At least Paul knew Jesus' followers personally.

Anyway, enjoyed the discussion. Thank you both for what you had to say!

Now, I am ready for bed! I hope I can sleep after such a lively discussion! Ha, ha! :D

Durriyyah said...

Hmmm... I don't have the energy to line item so many things out, so what to mention? :)

First, I "like" Paul and some of the things he said. I can't pretend to know his intentions or anything, so to say that his real goal was to ruin Christianity would be presuming a lot.

As for people hearing a sound and so forth when he was receiving such revelation, there are authentic hadiths to state the same in Muhammed's case. What I find peculiar in the logic is that it is said that this is the work of the Devil in Muhammed's case, but the work of God, for the same action and the same outcome. (not your words, but my lovely surrounding Christians that try to convert us often :\ )

I can't say that I know whether Paul was truly inspired... I wish I could, but what it comes down to for me, is word for word - text to text - how do each match up with the other. (Gospel to Paul's letters vs. Gospel to Qur'an) I was not convinced of the Qur'an based on its relationship with the NT, but as I continue my studies, the Gospels seem to have the same message, which doesn't have mention of trinity nor original sin.

Anyway, I just wanted to clear up what one, simple Muslim's view was of Paul is as it seems there are varying views. It isn't about "liking" him or not... I didn't like the message of Islam at first either, but I was intellectually convinced in the end and the heart followed.

Peace and Blessings.

Susanne said...

Durriyyah, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I enjoyed them. :)