The following is a response to Nisar Muhammad’s article regarding Paul which can be found here: http://www.answerchristianity.fsnet.co.uk/StPaul.htm.
Nisar has falsely claimed that I have been unable to refute his arguments, and consistently boasts about defeating me. He even boasts about being my student. Seeing that this is not about me, but rather about God’s truth, his fanaticism with me becomes all the more intriguing.
Suffice it to say, much like I have already done in private email exchanges, I will be refuting all of Nisar’s false claims in order to silence the lie that I have been unable to refute him. This time my responses will be posted on the web for all to see. Nisar thinks that by repeating himself over and over again will somehow prove that his arguments are sound, even though these arguments have been thoroughly refuted.
I trust that intelligent readers will be able to see that Nisar’s arguments are some of the worst ever, with only Osama Abdullah’s articles being much worse still. As I refute Nisar’s points, the readers should be able to see that it is Nisar who has shown that he is incapable of refuting my arguments. Repeating himself doesn’t refute anything.
With that said, let us begin our response by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Looking at FALSE Christian beliefs in…
St. Paul and Islam
The False Apostle – The Islamic Belief
The False Apostle
Muslims believe that between the Prophet Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) no Messenger of God came to the Gentiles or Jews. This is based on an agreed hadith in Imam Muslim and Imam Bukhari as below:
Volume 4, Book 55, Number 651:
Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “I am the nearest of all the people to the son of Mary, and all the prophets are paternal brothers, and there has been no prophet between me and him (i.e. Jesus).”
One man claimed to be a messenger of God in this intervening period. That man was called both Paul and Saul.
According to Christians Paul was a “Messenger of God”. Jesus appeared to him in a vision as God and choose him as a Messenger i.e. Paul is a Messenger of God because Jesus is God.
It is said that Paul is “sent to the Gentiles” to preach to them the Gospel; i.e. he is “a sent one” (an apostle) with a message. [Remark: “Apostle” and “Messenger” are basically equivalent terms]
Paul is sent by Jesus to the nations with a particular message, i.e. he is a messenger, quotes from the Bible where the title “Apostle” is applied to him are as follows:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, … (Romans 1:1)
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, … (1 Cor. 1:1)
Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God, the Father, … (Galatians 1:1)
I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, (Galatians 2:7-10)
First, Nisar has erroneously assumed that Muhammad is a prophet/messenger, and therefore whatever his false prophet says must be true. Nisar needs to prove that Muhammad is a prophet and not simply assume that he is.
Second, it may be true that some Muslims believe that there were no messengers between Jesus and Muhammad, yet this is not the case with all Muslims. As we shall see, Muslim scholars of the past wholeheartedly upheld the view that Jesus’ apostles functioned as messengers and prophets, and that Paul himself was a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Third, Nisar is wrong in claiming that Paul was one man who claimed to be a messenger since the NT is replete with examples of messengers and prophets that came after the Lord Jesus Christ:
“Therefore I (Jesus) am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.” Matthew 23:34
“During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.” Acts 11:27-30
“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:” Acts 14:4
“Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.” Acts 15:32
“Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”’ When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Acts 21:8-13
“Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Romans 16:7
“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?” 1 Corinthians 12:28-29
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:19-20
“which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” Ephesians 3:5
“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it… It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” Ephesians 4:7, 11
These verses should put to rest Nisar’s false assertions that Paul was one man that claimed to be a messenger, since there were many apostles and messengers.
Islam denies the apostleship of Paul and the claim that Paul is a messenger of God.
Correction. Contemporary Muslims like Nisar may deny the apostleship of Paul, but the first Muslims did not as the following citations conclusively prove:
<so We reinforced them with a third> means, ‘We supported and strengthened them with a third Messenger.’ Ibn Jurayj narrated from Wahb bin Sulayman, from Shu’ayb Al-Jaba’i, “The names of the first two Messengers were Sham’un and Yuhanna, and the name of the third was BULUS, and the city was Antioch…
<Verily, we have been sent to you as Messengers.>
meaning, ‘from your Lord Who created you and Who commands you to worship Him Alone with no partners or associates.’ This was the view of Abu Al-‘Aliyah. Qatadah bin Di‘amah claimed that they were MESSENGERS of the Messiah, peace be upon him, sent to the people of Antioch. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 8, Surat Al-Ahzab, Verse 51 to the end of Surat Ad-Dukhan, abridged under a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition, September 2000], p. 179; bold and capital emphasis mine)
Sham’un refers to Simon Peter, Yuhanna to the apostle John, and Bulus is Arabic for Paul. Ibn Kathir’s citation demonstrates that many of Muhammad’s contemporaries viewed Paul as one of the Messengers sent by God! In light of Nisar’s assault on the beloved Apostle Paul, this becomes quite intriguing. In Alfred Guillaume’s translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasulullah titled The Life of Muhammad (Oxford University Press Karachi) we find the following positive endorsement of Paul:
“God has sent me (Muhammad) to all men, so take a message from me, God have mercy on you. Do not hang back from me as the disciples hung back from Jesus son of Mary. They asked how they hung back and he said, ‘He called them to a task similar to that which I have called you. Those who had to go a short journey were pleased and accepted. Those who had a long journey before them were displeased and refused to go, and Jesus complained of them to God. (T. From that very night) every one of them was able to speak the language of the people to whom he was sent.’ (T. Jesus said, ‘This is a thing that God has determined that you should do, so go.’)
“Those whom Jesus son of Mary sent, both disciples and those who came after them, in the land were: Peter the disciple AND PAUL WITH HIM, (PAUL BELONGED TO THE FOLLOWERS AND WAS NOT A DISCIPLE) to Rome. Andrew and Matthew to the land of the cannibals; Thomas to the land of Babel, which is in the land of the east; Philip to Carthage and Africa; John to Ephesus the city of the young men of the cave; James to Jerusalem which is Aelia the city of the sanctuary; Bartholomew to Arabia which is the land of Hijaz; Simon to the land of Berbers; Judah who was not one of the disciples was put in place of Judas.” (Ibid. p. 653; bold and capital emphasis mine)
Other Muslim sources that affirm the preceding statement include:
“Among the apostles and those disciples around them, whom Jesus sent out, there were Peter and his companion Paul.” (Thalabii, Qisas al-Anbiyaa, pp. 389-390)
“Among the apostles, and the followers who came after them were the Apostle Peter and Paul who was a follower and not an apostle; they went to Rome. Andrew and Matthew were sent to the country whose people are man-eaters, a land of blacks, we think; Thomas was sent to Babylonia in the east, Philip to Qayrawan (and) Carthage, that is, North Africa. John went to Ephesus, the city of the youths of the cave, and James to Jerusalem, that is, Aelia. Bartholomew was sent to Arabia, namely, the Hijaz; Simeon to the land of the Berbers in Africa. Judas was not then an apostle, so his place was taken by Ariobus. He filled in for Judas Iscariot after the latter had perpetrated his deed.” (History, Volume IV, p. 123; bold emphasis mine)
The translator, Moshe Perlmann, comments on the above statement that Paul was not an apostle:
- In Islamic terms the messengers or apostles pave the new path. Their work is continued by the tabi’un, the followers, members of the next generations, who lead the Faithful. (Ibid.)
According to Islam’s premiere historian Paul was a faithful follower of the Apostles, especially the Apostle Peter. In fact, al-Tabari lists Paul as one of those martyred for the faith:
“Abu Ja’far says: They assert that after Tiberius, Palestine and other parts of Syria were ruled by Gaius, son of Tiberius, for four years. He was succeeded by another son, Claudius, for fourteen years, following which Nero ruled for fourteen years. He slew Peter and crucified Paul head down. For four months Botlaius [Vittelius] ruled thereafter. Then Vespasian, father of Titus whom he sent to Jerusalem, ruled for ten years. Three years after his rise to power, forty years after the ascension of Jesus, Vespasian sent Titus to Jerusalem. Titus destroyed it and slew numerous Israelites in his wrath over the fate of Christ…” (Ibid., p. 126; bold emphasis mine)
We, therefore, see that as far as sound biblical exegesis, historical data, and Islamic traditions are concerned Nisar has no case against the beloved Apostle of the Lord Jesus. Nisar needs to invent lies and twist sources in order to justify his assault on Paul.
In His Pre-Christian Days He Had Been A Persecutor Of The Disciples Of Jesus (PBUH)
He had done evil to the Saints in Jerusalem.
He was breathing threats and slaughter.
He arrested the Christians
He had and he himself flogged the Christians often in every synagogue
He physically beat the Christians
Beyond measure he ravaged the Church
He was totally successful in Jerusalem
He persecuted the church
He was a blasphemer
HE TRIED TO MAKE THE CHRISTIANS BLASPHEME
He was CHIEF sinner
He bound men and women
He persecuted the way (Christians) to death
He was violent i.e. caused injury to others
He made havoc and was ravaging the church
He went from synagogue to synagogue
After Stephen’s death he may have led the worst persecution of the church
He went house to house
He went to foreign cities
He had the Christians punished
He had savagely attacked the Christian faith
He had persecuted the Christians
He had persecuted this way unto death
He had imprisoned the saints
Bede a commentator of the Acts says in his commentary with regard to Saul – “and when they were put to death I handed down judgement. I myself gave judgement how they must be killed”
Under Acts 9:1 he says “He was causing those who were present to suffer slaughter, and he was terrifying those who were absent by his threats. He had more than blood of Stephen on his hand.”
Stephen the Deacon, first Christian Martyr. Deacon. Preacher. Jews stoned him to death. In the crowd was a man as Paul, who approved of his death.
According to the Acts Paul associated himself with Stephen’s accusers, guarding the outer garments of the witness as, in conformity with the ancient law, they threw the first stones at his execution. He tried to get the Christians to renounce their faith when they were brought before synagogue courts, pursuing refugees beyond the frontiers of Judea in an attempt to bring them back to trial and punishment.
Please do notice that as Nisar himself admits, these things occurred BEFORE Paul converted. They are therefore irrelevant to our discussion. That Nisar can only cite examples from Paul’s pre-Christian days to cast doubt on his integrity speaks volumes about Nisar’s arguments.
Paul had the deacon Stephen slaughtered, he had other early Christians scourged in synagogues and hunted them from town to town. Look at what Jesus said about him. He was of this generation i.e. the generation of Jesus (PBUH). BTW, Jesus was talking to the scribes and the Pharisees. PAUL WAS A PHARISEE.
“You serpents, brood of vipers, how can you escape being condemned to HELL?”
“This is why-look- I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some you will slaughter and crucify, some you will scourge in your synagogues and hunt from town to town (city to city); and you will draw down on your self the blood of every upright person that has been shed on earth, from the blood of Abel the holy to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. IN TRUTH I TELL YOU, it will recoil on this GENERATION”
Paul had a part in the death of Christians. “SAUL WAS STILL BREATHING OUT MURDEROUS THREATS AGAINST THE LORD’S DISCIPLES”. He “persecuted the way (Christians) to death “.
Page 16-17 Christian Martyrs;
A handbook of the believers who have dared to die for God compiled by Robert Backhouse, says “He (PAUL) instigated imprisonment and executions on numerous early followers of Christ”. The killings were not the only sins of Saul.
Here, Nisar tries to pit scripture against scripture, something that Satan tried to do against the Lord Jesus. But as the Lord Jesus demonstrated, one must interpret scripture in light of scripture. (Cf. Matthew 4:1-10)
Nisar cites Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees to prove that since Paul was a Pharisee, he therefore falls under Jesus’ condemnation. This fails to take into consideration that many priests and Pharisees believed in the Lord Jesus and repented of their sins:
“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7
“Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.’” Acts 15:5
This also fails to take into consideration that even during Jesus’ earthly minister several Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin had secretly come to believe in him:
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.”’” John 3:1-7
“Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, ‘Why didn’t you bring him in?’ ‘No one ever spoke the way this man does,’ the guards declared. ‘You mean he has deceived you also?’ the Pharisees retorted. ‘Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law–there is a curse on them.’ Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, ‘Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?’ They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.’” John 7:45-52
“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him… Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:37, 42-43
“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” John 19:38-42
“It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” Mark 15:42-47
This means that Jesus’ condemnation didn’t apply to ALL Pharisees and scribes, but to those whose hearts were hardened and would not accept him. Paul, on the other hand, was miraculously transformed from an enemy of Christ to one of the greatest Christian soldiers the world has ever known.
Nisar must explain the reasons for Paul’s conversion and martyrdom for a religion that he himself was trying to destroy. To simply attack Paul’s character and integrity doesn’t explain away Paul’s conversion to Christianity. If we add to this the positive testimony of Muslims such as Al-Tabari, we see that Nisar has a lot of explaining to do.
Why Are Muslims Afraid To Cry Wolf
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. A Wolf attacks, seizes and kills his prey. The false wolf may not always be aware of his folly.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.16
By their fruit you will recognize them…..17
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.18
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.19
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.21
“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22
Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’23
Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
How these passages apply to Paul is beyond us. If Nisar is trying to use these passages to cast doubt on Paul’s integrity DUE TO HIS PERSECUTION OF BELIEVERS PRIOR TO HIS CONVERSION, then these verses do not support Nisar’s arguments at all. Let us quote the very passage Nisar cites above:
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” Matthew 12:33-35
The question is how can anyone make a tree good? The Lord Jesus gives us the answer:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” John 15:1-6, 16
Much like Jesus chose the twelve and empowered them to bear fruit, the Lord Jesus also chose Paul and appointed him to bear fruit as well. In fact, Jesus’ whole mission was to come and make sinners righteous:
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Matthew 9:9-13
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a “sinner”.’ But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’” Luke 19:1-10
If anything, Paul’s conversion is a living testimony of Jesus’ claim. Paul is proof that the risen Lord Jesus has the life-transforming and sovereign power to take the worst of sinners and change them into the greatest of saints:
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted IN IGNORANCE AND UNBELIEF. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:12-16
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. AND THAT IS WHAT SOME OF YOU WERE. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
We again see that Nisar has tried to pit scripture against scripture in order to impugn Paul’s integrity. Yet a careful reading of the entire context of scripture sufficiently refutes Nisar’s erroneous assertions. Nisar proceeds to conclude his assault on Paul by pasting the following comments from an anti-Pauline Jewish website:
Yeshua And The Conclusion
As long as one isn’t trying to salvage Paul’s reputation, the earlier date of 65 AD for the writing of Revelation, during the Neronian persecution, fits all the data best.
The author has assumed that Revelation was written during the same time that 2 Timothy was written. Yet many scholars do not agree with his assessment since many places the writing of Revelation during the reign of Domitian, a view supported by some of the early Church fathers:
When John said these things [in Revelation], he was on the island of Patmos, condemned by Caesar Domitian to labor in the mines. Therefore, it was there that he saw the Apocalypse. When he had grown old, he thought that he would eventually meet his end through suffering. However, Domitian was killed and all his judgments were thrown out. After he was released from the mines, John later delivered [to the churches] this same Apocalypse that he had received from God… He later wrote the Gospel of the complete faith for the sake of our salvation. For when Valentinus, Cerinthus, Ebion, and others of the school of Satan were scattered abroad throughout the world, all the bishops assembled together to John from the neighboring provinces and compelled him to draw up his testimony. Victorinus (c. 280, W), 7.353, 354; see also 2.603, 604. (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts 1998, edited by David W. Bercot, p. 382; bold emphasis mine)
Interestingly, this source identifies some of the heretics and may quite possibly be those referred to by the Lord. This interpretation becomes more plausible in light of the fact that Cerinthus lived in Ephesus during the time that John was there:
There are also those who heard from [Polycarp] that John, the disciple of the Lord, went to bathe at Ephesus. But realizing that Cerinthus was within [the bath house], John rushed out of the bath house without bathing. Instead, he exclaimed “Let us fly, lest even the bath house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of truth, is within.” Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.416. (Bercot, p. 381; bold emphasis mine)
Second, even if the author’s dating were correct this still wouldn’t prove his point. For instance, both the NT and the early Church Fathers wholeheartedly acknowledge the Apostles’ approval of Paul. Compare the following citation:
The church in Ephesus was founded by Paul, and John remained among them permanently until the time of Trajan. It is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles. Irenaeus (180, E/W), 1.416. (Ibid., bold emphasis mine)
More evidence for Paul’s acceptance below.
The one fact that immediately jumps from the pages of Revelation is that in spite of Paul’s supposed popularity, not one word is given from Yeshua in recognition of him or his work among the Gentiles. Of the seven churches to whom the book is originally addressed, as far as we know, only one of them is a church that had any direct dealings with Paul. That church is the church of Ephesus, the first on the list of the seven. John records:
The Lord Jesus also didn’t mention Peter, James or any other Apostle by name for that matter with the exception of John. And? This is a classic example of arguing from silence. One can just as easily say that the Lord Jesus didn’t need to refer to Paul since it was common knowledge that he was the Lord’s instrument to the Gentiles. In fact, that Jesus would actually address places where Paul preached demonstrates that the Lord acknowledged the Apostle’s work and was simply correcting some of the aberrations that had taken place since Paul’s demise. The following example helps illustrate this point:
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Revelation 2:4
The Lord Jesus may be reminding the Ephesians of the love they initially had for Christians, which Paul had praised them for in his epistle:
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus AND YOUR LOVE FOR ALL THE SAINTS, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:15-16
The Lord Jesus would, therefore, be exhorting them to restore their intense love for believers. If this is the case, then this supports my point that Jesus is not condemning Paul or his ministry, but rather exhorting Christians to live up to the standards that Paul had set for them. Furthermore, using the author’s logic one can just as quite easily say that the Lord Jesus was undermining Peter’s authority in the following passages:
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the KEYS of death and Hades.’” Revelation 1:17-18
“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the KEY of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” Revelation 3:7
Jesus’ statement that he holds the keys of death, Hades and David is clearly a polemic against Matthew’s claim that Peter holds the keys to the kingdom in Matthew 16:19. This means that Peter was a false Apostle. This is what we would be forced to conclude if the author’s reasoning was sound, which of course it is not.
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Rev. 1:10,11 NKJV
Yeshua goes on to tell John what to say to each church and the general pattern of the things he said to each church went like this: first He would tell them what they were doing right and commend them for it. Next he would point out to them where they going wrong and reprimand them for it. Then he would exhort them to repent and change what they were doing wrong, or they would suffer the consequences. Then he would give them a promise of reward if they did repent and overcome their problems. Then, (and this is important), toward the end of each and every address to a church, he would speak to the whole world and say that what was true and good for this and all seven churches was good for anybody who cared to listen.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. NKJV
The reason that this is important is because there has been some false teaching going around. It holds that along with the obvious fact these letters were written to specific churches in Asia, they were also a parallel prophecy of the churches that would come along in time. The last church then (Laodicea) was supposedly a foreshadowing of the Christian church in general at the end of the age just before Yeshua returned. This has had the effect that we have concerned ourselves with only what was supposedly addressed to us. Today, one can hear all kinds of preaching about the lukewarm church of Laodicea, but one hears very little about what was said to the other six churches. We have been left blinded to six sevenths of the truth available. There is no truth to the parallel theory because the Holy Spirit explicitly repeated seven times that what was good for each and every one of the seven churches was also good for any individual who cared to listen. And much was addressed to those churches by Yeshua that flies directly in the face of Pauline doctrine. More on this later.
Now look at what was said to the only church of the seven that we know Paul had any dealings with, Ephesus. Among the things that Yeshua commended the Ephesian church for doing right, is this quote:
“I know your works, your labour, and your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars.” Rev. 2:2 NKJV
Yes. I believe Yeshua here is referring to Paul and his cohorts Timothy, and possibly Barnabas, and that his claims of apostleship and his doctrine are false! Consider the facts.
Paul’s ideas on the sovereignty of God and his subsequent doctrine are groundless and severely flawed. (See previous chapter)
The author has assumed that Paul is a false apostle. The author then uses this assumption to reject Paul’s ideas regarding the sovereignty of God as groundless. The fact of that matter is that Paul is correct and the author is wrong and must therefore abandon his unbiblical presuppositions.
We have record of Paul claiming to be an apostle to the Ephesians. “Paul, an apostle of Yeshua by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus,” EPH 1:1 NKJV
We have no record of anyone else claiming to be an apostle to anyone anywhere, not even to the Ephesians.
Ephesus is the only church of the seven listed in Revelation, that we have record of Paul claiming to be an apostle to.
This is essentially an argument from silence. To say that we have NO RECORD of anyone else claiming to be an Apostle to the Ephesians, is not the same AS DEMONSTRATING THAT THERE WERE NO OTHER APOSTLES, especially men claiming to be Apostles yet who were not. In fact, Revelation 2:2 is actual proof that there were many Apostles, since the Lord Jesus doesn’t refer to one apostle, but to at least two:
“I know your works, your labour, and your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested THOSE who say THEY ARE APOSTLES and are not, and have found them liars.” Rev. 2:2 NKJV
Since Jesus refers to more than one apostle, the burden of proof is upon the author to provide some historical references to show that Paul was part of a group of false apostles that flourished in Ephesus. We have provided evidence to show that he was not one of them. Hence, the author’s assertions do not constitute as proof.
Paul and his doctrine had troubles being accepted in Ephesus from the start, as recorded in Acts 19:8,9.
“And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them…” NKJV
Remember that this is recorded from Luke’s point of view and that he believed Paul’s doctrine was ‘the Way’. Notice that those who rejected Paul are men in the synagogue, not atheists or pagans. If these men had stood up in front of the synagogue and said, “Paul’s doctrine is flawed. He is a false apostle, and a liar”; Luke would no doubt have seen this as “speaking evil of the Way”.
Notice that when it is convenient, the author will use Luke to prove his case. Yet the author will attack Luke’s credibility when the latter contradicts the author’s erroneous assertions. This essentially entails circular reasoning. Luke is correct only when he agrees with the author, and wrong when he disagrees. Hence, the author will use Luke to validate his unproven assumptions, and then use these very assumptions to reject Luke when the latter disagrees! Let us quote the context to see what the author conveniently left out:
“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing PERSUASIVELY about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” Acts 19:8-20
We see that God supernaturally backed up Paul’s message through signs and wonders. Hence, if the author is basing his rejection of Paul primarily on the reaction of SOME of the Jews despite their being vigorously refuted, then he must also reject the rest of the Apostles as well since not all accepted their message either. In fact, the Apostles claimed to hold to the same Gospel that Paul proclaimed:
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’ This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.’ The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 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. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.’ The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up: ‘Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself… It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.’ 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, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with OUR DEAR FRIENDS Barnabas and Paul-men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 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.” Acts 15:1-14, 19-29
Furthermore, had the author continued reading Acts he would have found Paul warning the Ephesians of false teachers that were to arise after his passing:
“From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from YOUR OWN NUMBER will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’ When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.” Acts 20:17-37
Revelation 2:2, therefore, proves that Paul’ prophecy regarding false teachers arising after his departure was correct. It is little wonder that the Ephesians rejected these false apostles, since they were faithfully following Paul’s advice. Hence, if anything Revelation 2:2 actually vindicates the Apostle Paul and shows that his prophecies were truly inspired by the risen Christ!
If these five reasons are not enough to seriously call into question Paul’s status as an apostle, there is one more. It is a most interesting quote from Paul’s own pen that finally seals the fate of his supposed apostleship. It comes from his second letter to Timothy, which was also written during the same Neronian persecution (the same time the book of Revelation was being written). This letter is believed by many scholars to contain the last recorded words of Paul. Here he makes a short statement of lament that seems to have gone unnoticed. The implications of which are astounding if one is able to hear everything that is being said. In 2Tim. 1:15, Paul says to Timothy:
“This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me.”
Asia! All of them! Rejecting Paul! And when he says, “This you know”, it sounds like this must have been relatively common knowledge at that time. Asia! The very place that Yeshua told John to write, where his seven churches were. And they were alive, and obviously had been established for some time. Again, notice that Paul did not say that Asia had rejected the gospel of Yeshua. Obviously they hadn’t rejected Yeshua if there were thriving churches there that Yeshua wanted to address through John. Instead Paul said that all Asia had rejected him personally! How could it NOT be Paul and his band that Yeshua had commended the Ephesian church for rejecting?
Let us read the context to see how the author has misquoted Paul:
“You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.” 2 Timothy 1:15-18
It is clear from the context that Paul was using hyperbole, since he makes mention of an entire household who assisted him. In fact, when we continue to read 2 Timothy we are surprised to find the following:
“Only Luke is with me. GET MARK AND BRING HIM WITH YOU, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11
Paul mentions Luke as being with him as well as requesting that Timothy bring Mark since Mark was a great benefit to the Apostle. Interestingly, Paul elsewhere mentions both Mark and Luke as being present with him at the same time:
“My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)… Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” Colossians 4:10, 14
“And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.” Philemon 24
Interestingly, this is the same Mark that accompanied the Apostle Peter and who wrote the Gospel of Mark:
“She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.” 1 Peter 5:13
These verses conclusively demonstrate that both Paul and Luke were on good terms with the Apostles and their companions. In fact, Peter himself praised Paul and called the latter’s writings Scripture:
“Bear 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. He 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.” 2 Peter 3:15-16
We therefore see that much like his five previous points, the author’s last point contains little substance and fails to prove his assertions.
This by itself, should be more than enough reason to raise some question about Paul. When we add to this the rest of the evidence against him, we have more than enough evidence to do as the Ephesian church, and convict Paul of the crime of false impersonation of an apostle!
If Yeshua’s opinion of Paul was that Paul was a false apostle and a liar.
The evidence from the Holy Bible, early Church history, and early Muslim records should provide sufficient reasons to accept Paul’s claims. When we examine the evidence objectively we are forced to do what Paul commands, namely to test all things and reject that which is unsound. Since the author’s arguments are devoid of any substance, we choose to reject his claims and align ourselves with the risen Lord Jesus in his assessment of his beloved Apostle:
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and 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. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The 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. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ But 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. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then 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.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” Acts 9:1-18
This concludes this part. In the next part, we will compare Muhammad to Paul in order to document how the former fails to live up to the standard set by the risen Lord’s true emissary.
Jesus is our risen and eternal Lord of glory forever and ever! Amen.