When Muslims seek to tie you up in knots concerning the Law of Moses and the Apostle Paul

 

The Muslim Argument – Jesus and the first Christians kept the Law of Moses

The original Christians observed the dietary and ritualistic laws of the Torah and required non-Jewish converts to do the same. In doing this they were faithful to the teachings of Christ. Jesus confined his preaching to Israel, but in his message to all mankind in the Sermon on the Mount he said that their would be no change in the Mosaic system till the end of time:

> “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)

He preached the strict keeping of the law even beyond the bounds of his contemporaries:

> “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

The Apostle Paul eliminated these obligations in order to make Christianity more attractive to the Gentiles. He not only extended the physical confines of Christ’s teaching beyond Israel but also changed his doctrine so that the new Christian had no longer to submit to the rituals of the Jewish religion.

Paul claimed to have received visions even though he, himself was unsure what the visions contained apart from the fact that they were ‘unspeakable words that are unlawful to utter’ (2 Corinthians 12:1-5) but then he goes on to say that these were visions of Jesus and that they were the authentic teachings of Christianity. No one, not even the disciples who had been with Jesus had access to this revelation of the gospel except Paul and so now he was free to make disciples conform to this teaching. Nothing, no power, was going to stop him.

> “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

He became so arrogant in his new found faith that he boasted that he worked far harder than any of the earlier followers of Jesus > “but I laboured more abundantly than they all“ (1 Corinthians 15:10).

 

The Christian Response – Did Jesus teach that the Mosaic system should remain unchanged for all time?

The two quotations above are misrepresented.

1) > “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17,18)

This first reference is interpreted by Muslims to mean that the law will remain unchanged but it finds its true meaning when it is recognised that Jesus himself, fulfils the Law and the Prophets in that they point to him and he is their fulfilment. The term Law is used in different ways in the New Testament here it refers to the whole of the Old Testament in its prophetic function. This is confirmed when Jesus says in the same gospel ‘For all the prophets and the Law prophesied.’ (Matthew 11:13)

2) > “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Muslims provide this reference to support the importance of strict keeping of the law yet the text shows that despite the Pharisees and the scribes being the most punctilious in restricting themselves to the law they still failed to reach the standard of behaviour and righteousness to which the law pointed!

The teaching of Christ emphasises moral rather than ceremonial purity (Matthew 15:1-20 Mark 7:17-23) his strongest denunciations were against those who elevated the ritual and external over the moral.

 

The early church

The Christian Jews in Jerusalem strictly observed the Mosiac law. They counted it was their responsibility to win the strict Jews of Jerusalem to the Messiah so they continued in the law’s requirements. However, those Gentiles who accepted Christ as the Messiah were expected to submit to the moral standard of the law but were never expected to follow the Jewish ordinances.

The church in Jerusalem was made up predominantly of Galilean Jews together with those who had responded to the apostolic message in Jerusalem. Externally a professional narrator called them Nazerenes (Acts 24:5) but they called themselves ‘the Way.’ It was mostly tolerated in Judea except when it began to fraternise with non-Jewish churches in other parts of the Roman empire. The leadership was under the Galilean twelve especially Peter and John but they soon gave way to the regular Jewish manner of elders under the presidency of James until his execution in AD 62.

Their distinctive belief was that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, that God had raised him from the dead and that he had suffered for Israel’s redemption and that the great day of the Lord had come already and would be culminated by the manifestation of the Messiah in judgement and glory. They baptised in the name of Jesus, received regular instruction from the apostles, and had fellowship in households daily remembering the Lord by the breaking of bread and in prayer (Acts 2:41-46).

The church became large: > “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: even priests and Pharisees” (Acts 21:20). >“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)

Right from the beginning the Jerusalem church included many Greek speaking Jews (Hellenists) who for various reasons had to come to Jerusalem from other parts of the Roman Empire. The church experienced united fellowship and mutual support and the committee of seven appointed to look after those in need were probably Hellenists.

 

Did the early Christians expect Gentile converts to keep the law?

Although Peter preached to and baptised the uncircumcised Cornelius and his household, the teachings of the church were firstly spread by the Jewish Hellenists Stephen and Philip. Later the Jewish Hellenists went from Jerusalem to Antioch and there preached to Gentiles without any stipulations regarding the law. Officially the Jerusalem church gave its approval to these developments and supported the new church policy in Antioch. It was formerly laid down at the Jerusalem Church Council in Acts 15.

Because of the Jewish opposition to the preaching of the gospel to Gentiles the Hellenistic group were forced to leave Jerusalem while the law-abiding Jewish Christians were able to remain. Some however, from the Jerusalem church disapproved that the gospel should be preached to Gentiles without an obligation to keep the law: > ‘And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.’(Acts 15:1).

The whole procedure outlined above reflects the primacy of the Church at Jerusalem in matters of faith and morals. Jerusalem was the church par excellence. The Jerusalem church approved the keeping of the law to the Jew and the non-keeping of the law for the Gentile.

 

Did Paul eliminate the legal obligations to make an easier Christianity for the Gentiles?

Paul acted in line with the teachings of Jesus and the early church as a basis for Christian conduct:

> “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Romans 14:14)

It was Peter, not Paul, who was the first person to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. In the home of Cornelius he saw a vision and was told to eat both clean and unclean animals.

Paul, along with his Jewish companion Barnabas, were sent out by the church of Antioch and they always preached to the Jews first. (Acts 15:22-23) The Jewish leadership of Antioch was responsible for sending them and they he always reported back to them and had their approval.

Paul was always careful to walk in the same way as the Church in Jerusalem both in practice and doctrine. He visited them several times and supported them when they were going through famine. To isolate Paul as an individual who acted independently of the true church misses the point of the teaching of the New Testament.

 

Did the visions of Paul make him so arrogant that he split off from other Jewish Christians and developed a new splinter Christianity?

To say that Paul became arrogant to the point that he disregarded the eye-witness apostles is facile. The truth of the matter is that Paul was most reluctant to talk about his visions and revelations. We know that Paul did receive a number of visions, for Luke records them as a testimony to the kindly guidance of God (Acts 9:12; 16:9-10 18:9-10; 22:17-21; 23:11; 27:23-24). What is remarkable is that in his epistles Paul does not share the content of any revelation or vision, he preferred to keep it private. Only when he felt forced to, because of the fickle spiritual state of the Corinthian church, did he reluctantly go on to mention his visions. Paul was far from arrogant, he knew that there was nothing to be gained by talking about his most intimate spiritual experiences, but for the sake of the believers he concurs emphasising “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory” (2 Corinthians 12:1); hardly the words of an arrogant apostle.

 

4 Responses to “The Renegade Paul”

  • Faraz:

    Paul changes the law of Jesus. Matthew chapter 19 verse 16 to 17, a man can obtain salvation by keeping the law and the commandments. Once a man came to him and ask that how can I obtain salvation, his response was by keeping the law and commandments, so what commandments was he talking about, did he produce his commandments, no, these were the ten commandments of Moses ….. when he came to this world, he never introduced any new law but said, he hasn’t come to destroy any law, so Paul certainly destroys the law by saying Alcohol isn’t prohibited.

    Jesus never said that you can obtain salvation by believing in my Crucification, he knew he was going to be crucified, he told from the very beginning that all of you are loyal, all except one, even in his final meal he told them that one of you is going to betray me. He knew that crucification is inevitable yet he never said to believe in it, one thing strange about the whole Christianity is that in it according to now peoples in order to obtain salvation you’ve to believe in him as being God and being crucified, if you don t believe in his Crucification all of your deeds are in vain. Christians often told us that all of our zakaat, prayers aren’t going to give us anything except we believe in his Crucification but this was something Jesus never told, so why today’s Christian believe in Cross because their Church said this. Why their Church say this is because it was Created by Paul and Paul say this as he said in Colossians 2:14.Paul says that salvation can be obtained by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus………… So coming to the self appointed Apostle Paul …………..” (Edited by Admin)

    • admin:

      There are so many issues in your opening comments that need attention before coming to your assesment of Paul and it is to those we must firstly come – unfortunately this gives us no opportunity on this occasion to discuss your main argument at the moment.

      1) So what law has Paul changed? Rather than address that issue you refer to the incident of Matthew 19:6-22 where a Jewish man asked Jesus about good deed he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus reminded him that there was no good deed fit for him to enter the kingdom. Jesus lists the 5th to the 9th of the ten commandments as found in Exodus 20. Jesus added that the love of one’s neighbour (Leviticus 19:18) was essential also. The man claimed he had in fact kept all these commandments but still did not have the assurance of salvation. For this individual, something more was needed. He was indeed willing to discipline himself to conform to the law but his monet was competing for his attempts to please God. Keeping the individual commandments of God is no substitute for readiness to submit one-self to God it just leads to a lack of assurance of sins forgiven. Jesus then turns to his disciples and teaches them about the difficulties of rich men entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-26). He does not teach that salvation is by keeping the commandments but of having a heart that loves God which will want to keep the commandments.

      2) You wrote “Paul certainly destroys the law by saying alcohol isn’t prohibited” ———- Now where do you get this idea from? Does the Law (ten commandments) prohibit alcohol? Did you not read the earlier verses in Matthew 11:18,19 “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.”?

      3) You wrote “Jesus never said that you can obtain salvation by believing in my crucification” —— the whole purpose of the gospels is that it leads to the clima of the death and resurrection of Jesus. As you correctly say he had been preparing his discples for this event which would happen in Jerusalem. In his final Passover meal, which you also mentioned, he explained that the implications of his death (crucifixion ) would be the means of the forgiveness of sins. Again we refer you to Matthew (26:27-28) “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

      4) You wrote: “One thing strange about the whole Christianity is that in it according to now peoples in order to obtain salvation you’ve to believe in him as being God and being crucified, if you don’t believe in his Crucification all of your deeds are in vain.” ———– This is a very amateurish understanding of Christianity. The Gospels tell us the historical life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These gospels inform us that the claims of Jesus were rejected by the Jewish religious authorites as being blasphemous. Christians believe what he said about himself in these gospels: that he was the Jewish Messiah; the son of God; the Son of man; that his birth was of a virgin; that he was without sin etc, etc. It is the magnificence of his person including his crucifixon, resurrection and ascension that Christians rejoice in. Through his crucifixion our sins are atoned for and we do not come into God’s judgement because of his propitiary death. The forgiven Christian seeks to live a life pleasing to God by doing deeds consistent with a righteous life. The gospels were written so that after understanding the afore mentioned things the believer should have everlasting life “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). These are not inventions of the modern Christian but they are the very fabric of the testimony and confession of believers from the very first days. The historical church has consistently taught these truths it is no innovation.

      5) You wrote “because it was created by Paul” —————— surely you must know that you are talkng nonsense for we know you have read the Book of Acts which clearly tells us that the first believers in the crucifixion and resurrestion of Christ were his intial disciples, his mother etc (Acts 1:13,14); the first to make pubic confession of the things that occurred in the gospels was Peter (Acts 2); he was a first hand witness of the events concerning Jesus and spoke publicly in Solomon’s portico about the things which are in total agreement with what we read in the gospels: “ But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses (Acts 3:14-15). It might be better first for you to think again about your argument your objection to the Christian teaching of the crucifixion and resurrection. Your attack should be against the first believers not Paul but all those mentioned in Acts before Paul ever came on to the scene – such people as Peter, John, James, the one-hundred and twenty believers (Acts 1:15); the Hellenist believers of Acts 6 including Stephen and Philip, Ananias etc – all actively proclaiming the faith before Paul was converted.

      6) You wrote “So coming to the self appointed Apostle Paul ………” You may have some legitimate arguments in your detailed assessment of Paul, you may like to re-submit them, but having begun on the wrong premise you have already drifted into falsehood and you need to think again.

      • Faraz:

        Before I start, I should make a few things clear, the reason of me debating here is not to attack your religion or to say that I’m right and you’re wrong but to provide my point of view, and learn more, as I m really interested in religions and I like having friendly religious debates, the whole reason of me to read bible was to learn.

        1) Jesus in three places tells us on how to obtain salvation he said: Salvation according to Jesus comes from observing the commandments (Mat. 19:16-17, Luke 10:25-28, and “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mat 5:20 NASB. If you say that no salvation isn’t by this, but by believing in Jesus Crucification, you’ re trying to say that he lied (God forbid) since he was really explicit, keep the commandments. If you read the 10 commandments, the first are on love ….. having a heart that loves God which will want to keep the commandments so at the end of day, you still have to keep the commandments and this is the only way to salvation.

        2) when Jesus said that think not I’ve come here to destroy any law or prophet but to fulfill, anyway firstly analyze what this verse says, as many claims that Jesus fulfilled the laws, so firstly analyze it then we’ll discuss the argument on alcohol. If you look at the original greek word for fulfil, it actually means to “fill to the top” or to “cause to abound”. In other words, to bring full meaning to the law, or to exalt it! Now for clarity, let’s reword that Bible verse with the new meaning ….. ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to BRING FULL MEANING TO IT AND EXALT IT.’ Romans 3:31 …..’Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.’ Now does that sound like Jesus abolished the law? Of course not.

        Christ Jesus, in no way, came to abolish the law. He came to give His life for us as a ransom, because as Paul confirmed in Romans 6:23 …..’For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ ….. But Jesus also came to show us the true meaning of the law, the ten commandments. He came to help us understand the spirit of the law, as the Jews only really understood the law in a physical way. Now many Christians will say that they keep the “spirit” of the law, not the “letter” of the law. Well, what law are we keeping in spirit? The Bible Ten Commandments!

        So now coming to alcohol, I know that alcohol isn’t in the 10 commandments but it is in the law of Moses, as in various occassions of Old Testament we read that alcohol is prohibited. Christians drink because they believe that there is nothing wrong when one drinks moderately alcoholic beverages. ……………. And by instituting the cup of the Lord’s Supper he commanded its use until eternity. In other words for the Christians, Jesus’s (PBUH) example and teachings form the belief and practice. Logically and rationally if wine was good for Jesus (PBUH) it is also good for his followers. “The Biblical terms for wine (yayin in Hebrew and oinos in Greek) are used in Scripture to refer to the juice of the grape, whether fermented or unfermented. This significant finding discredits the popular claim that the Bible knows only fermented wine, which it approves when used moderately. The truth of the matter is that the Bible knows both fermented wine, which it disapproves, and unfermented grape juice, which it approves ……………….

        • admin:

          We have had to look at your earliest comments and respond but not yet got round to talking about Paul which is supposed to be the subject of this page!

          1) We have already replied to Mat. 19:16-17 your addition of the parallel passage in Luke 10:25-28 only enhances the situation that Jews were expected to keep the covenant which had been given them failure to do so would involve judgement. The same applies to Matthew 5:20 where the punctilousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law failed to impress Jesus. He explains that the purpose of the Law is righteousness but that they failed to achieve this as they fell into legalism.

          2) What we are saying is that the Jews were expected to keep the Mosaic covenant, in fact initially they swore to keeping it and recognised they were cursed if they failed. The Law was not their means of salvation they were saved by the grace of God and they kept the law in order to fulfill their obligations to God. Jews along with Gentiles are considered sinners, falling short of God’s requirements, through the sacrificial system outlined in he Mosaic Law forgiveness could be found through the shedding of blood and God provided the way of salvation for all mankind by sending his son into the world to be a propitaiton for sin. The earliest believers that Jesus was the Christ were Jewish Christians, they understood they were saved by grace and responded to this grace of God by continuing to keep the Mosaic commandments. The Mosaic Law was never imposed on Gentile believers but both Jew and Gentile came to salvation through the same Jesus Christ.

          3) Now to your interesting interpretation of Matthew 5:17 in saying fulfill means “ to bring full meaning to it and exalt it.” Well certainly the Greek verb ‘Pleerow’ can signify to fill, or to fulfil, complete. In the New Testament it is often spoken of in respect of time e.g.when a certain period was fulfilled or had expired; it can also mean to preach fully, or complete the ministry. The text is infoming us hat Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets in that they point to him, (they find their completion in him) for the prophetic nature of the Old Testament points to Jesus.

          4) It is great to hear you agreeing with the Apostle Paul and quoting from one of his letters, namely Romans. He in agreement with Jesus, and the rest of New Testament writers maintained the Law was not annulled/abolished but fulfilled i.e. found its fulfilment in Christ. Perhaps he is not the renegade you thought he was!

          5) You wrote “But Jesus also came to show us the true meaning of the law, the ten commandments” – yes you have got it. Then you add “Now many Christians will say that they keep the “spirit” of the law, not the “letter” of the law.”—— – Yes, this would be correct. Gentiles did not have the Jewish law imposed upon them but by following the teachings of Jesus in the law of love and being found in Christ, and having the Spirit of God in their lives they can fulfill the laws demands. They can live a righteous life that pleases God and measures up to the standards of the Law.

          6) The remainder of your response centres on wine where you seem to be arguing that non-alcohic wine was used by the righteous. This subject seems important to you so we better look at it.

          The general word for wine in the New Testament is as you correctly say ‘oinos’ – quite how unfermented wine would burst out of wineskins (Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37) is a puzzle. Quite how Noah became drunk after taking fermented wine (yayin) is equally a puzzle (Genesuis 9:18-24). Quite why opponents of Jesus would call him a winebibber (Matthew 11:16, Luke 7:34) is equally strange. You suggest alcohol was not meant for “the word wine is missing” while this is correct, it is clearly understood from the context that fermented wine is meant why else would they use the Greek word Oinopotees’ in a negative way.

          While it is true certain individuals abstained from wine like John the Baptist (Luke 1); or others made a vow ,such as the Nazerite vow to abstain from wine, intoxicating drinks, vinegar and raisins; and while Hosea 4:10 mentions ‘the new wine’ which suggests it is not fermented (as you propose) these seem to be exceptions rather than the rule. Additionally, the Hebrew word ‘sekar’ is used twenty-two times in the old Testament and translated strong drink, its root being the basis for drunkeness. Many Christians, acting under the law of Christ, see that drinking alcohol may be a stumbling-block to other Christians or for that matter Muslims) so choose abstinence but they do so fully aware that it is not abstinence is not prohibited in the scriptures.

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