Is Paul a Genuine Apostle of God?
The foundation of Christianity lies on one man: the Apostle Paul. Much of what distinguishes Christianity as a standalone religion, separate from Judaism, are Paul’s teachings. Without the writings of Paul, the New Testament (in particular the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke) paint the picture of a very Jewish Jesus primarily concerned with the Israelites and adherence to the Law of Moses.
It was only with the arrival of Paul that Gentiles (non Jews) were brought into the fold of the early Church. Paul is also the one who introduced doctrines that are completely alien to Judaism, such as Original Sin and justification by faith alone (meaning you are made righteous purely through belief and not good works). These doctrines weren’t part of the original teachings of Jesus. Remove Paul from the equation and Christianity is not much different to traditional Judaism, with the only significant difference being the acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah.
Since Christianity hinges on Paul then the question naturally arises, does Paul provide a solid foundation for Christianity?
THE OLD TESTAMENT: PAUL’S STUMBLING BLOCK
We will now look at several examples from Paul’s writings where he wrongly references the Old Testament in an attempt to support his theology:
1. Chopping off parts of verses and taking verses out of context.
Here Paul has half quoted Deuteronomy 30:14:
Notice that Paul has left out the part that states “that thou mayest do it”. Paul believed that obedience to the Law of Moses was no longer necessary, a claim that is contrary to the way that the life of Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels. In quoting the Old Testament, Paul seems to have omitted the instruction to obey the Law.
Furthermore, the fuller context of Deuteronomy 30:9-11 reveals why Paul couldn’t quote the full set of verses in context:
“And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off (not too difficult to obey).”
“And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:
If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off (not too difficult to obey).”
Not only does the above state that obeying the Law with all your heart and soul would make people prosper, but it also further states that the Law was not too difficult to follow nor is it beyond the reach of the people. This contravenes Paul’s claims that the Law is like a prison sentence and a curse:
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.” [Galatians 3:23] “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” [Galatians 3:13]
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.” [Galatians 3:23]
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” [Galatians 3:13]
2. Quoting from the wrong version of the Old Testament.
“and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.” [Romans 11:26]
“and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.” [Romans 11:26]
Contrast Paul’s above quote with the Old Testament verse he is referencing, Isaiah 59:20. Open up any English version of the Bible and you will see that the reading for Isaiah 59:20 is similar to this (this is taken from the New International Version of the Bible):
There is clearly a mismatch between what Paul quotes in the New Testament, stating that the Messiah will remove godlessness, or sin, from “Jacob” (meaning the Israelites), and what the Old Testament actually contains – the Messiah will come to those who have already repented from sin.
What’s going on? Paul may have been quoting from the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament:
So we have two variant readings for Isaiah 59:20, the one in the Greek Septuagint that Paul seems to quote from, and also the one that is used in all English versions of the Bible which originate from the Hebrew Masoretic Text. It turns out that the reading that Paul seems to quote from, the Greek Septuagint, is the incorrect reading. This is because the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest surviving manuscripts for the Old Testament, support the reading that is found in the Masoretic Text (compare the two, they are very similar):
Masoretic Text – “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord.
Dead Sea Scrolls – “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the LORD.”
3. Misquoting verses.
Here Paul has misquoted a curse made originally in Deuteronomy 27:26:
The key phrase in the text is “confirmeth not”. It is not pronouncing a curse on everyone who does not meticulously or ‘mathematically’ keep the whole of the Law, as Paul implies. Rather, it is an exhortation to Israel to affirm the Law and then to do the best they could in applying it, basically “putting their money where their mouth is”. The curse condemns those rebels who rejected the covenant and did not confirm the validity of the Torah.
4. Misinterpreting verses.
Here Paul has referenced the Old Testament verse Genesis 17:19:
This is probably Paul’s silliest argument of all, because in the Hebrew language there is no ‘seeds’, only ‘seed’, as it’s a collective noun. Like in English, if I say bring your sheep, it can mean one or many. This is beside the point, as in Genesis 13:16 it gives us the correct interpretation as it says:
So then, “seed” refers to many descendants and not just one (Jesus) as Paul misinterprets.
5. Merging together unrelated verses (also known as “cutting and pasting”).
Click on picture to enlarge:
Here Paul has linked together unrelated verses of the Old Testament to come to the conclusion that no one is able to keep the Law, all are guilty of breaking it and are therefore unrighteous, and that the entire purpose for God revealing the Law to Moses in the first place was to make us realise that we can’t keep it. What Paul quotes is a compilation of no less than six separate passages that have been taken out of their original context from the Psalms and the book of Isaiah, given an interpretation that cannot be found there, and strung together to appear as one coherent passage.
Let’s examine one of the verses he has referenced. The first passage he quotes comes from Psalm 14:
In this passage David is not speaking of every human being, but rather of a distinct group of people whom he describes as “corrupt”. These evil people are then contrasted with a second group of people referred to as “my people” and “the generation of the righteous” This is obviously not the picture that Paul wants us to get from these Old Testament verses. Notice also Paul’s embellishment of this passage, he would have us believe the phrase, “no, not one” is used in association with the word “righteous”. The word “righteous” only shows up later in verse 5, and there it directly implies that there are those who are righteous, the opposite of what Paul would have us believe.
Christians tend to defend this by saying that Paul used a catena (or “chain”, a form of biblical commentary made up entirely of other verses). Apparently this was an acceptable and common practice back in his day. Whilst it’s true that there’s nothing wrong with chaining verses together, one cannot change their meaning in the process, otherwise you can make the Bible say just about anything. In Paul’s string of quotes, he took snippets of Old Testament verses out of their context from Psalm 14:1-5, Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3 , Psalm 10:7, Psalm 36:1 and Isaiah 59:7-8. In each and every case, the unrighteous individuals spoken of in the passages are specifically evil men, and in the greater context of the passages, the evil men are contrasted with those who are called “the righteous”, “the upright”, and “the innocent”. So, not only is there no support for Paul’s picture in these passages, but in their proper context, the exact opposite of what Paul intended is firmly established.
If Christians still think this is an acceptable practice, then they are invited to embrace my own concocted chain consisting of snippets from Acts 23:6, Matthew 23 and Matthew 16:12 which ‘prove’ that Jesus warned us against following Paul:
6. Was the End nigh or was the End not nigh, that is the question.
Another area that we can use to put Paul’s claims of apostleship to the test, is future prophecies. The Bible gives us a standard, a yardstick by which we can measure Paul’s claims to divine inspiration:
So we can see that anyone that makes a claim about the future which then fails to come true, cannot be inspired by God.
Now there are numerous statements by Paul that suggest he believed the End was expected in his lifetime
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died[b] will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. [1 Thessalonians 4:15–17] And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. [Romans 13.11-12] Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died[b] will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. [1 Thessalonians 4:15–17]
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. [Romans 13.11-12]
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
Perhaps the clearest of these is 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 where Paul states that “we will not all sleep”. Sleep here is a metaphor for death, so Paul seems to be saying that not all of the believers in his day would die before the return of Jesus. Obviously this is a false prophecy, as it has been 2,000 years since Paul wrote those words, and both the End times and return of Jesus still haven’t taken place.
In fact most New Testament scholars conclude that Paul and his followers expected the imminent end of the world during their lifetimes. For example, the distinguished New Testament scholar Professor C.K. Barrett wrote in his commentary on 1 Corinthians:
The majority of Christian scholarship that disagrees with this observation comes from evangelical circles which are motivated to protect their doctrine of scriptural inerrancy.
Now some Christians try to defend Paul by claiming that he was speaking figuratively. For example they argue that when Paul used the first person plural to refer to believers (“we will not all sleep”), this does not necessarily mean he included himself among them, but rather he was referring to a group of believers at some unspecified time in the future.
So what did Paul inetend by his statement, should we interpret it literally or figuratively? In order to arrive at the correct understanding we need to interpret Paul in light of his other statements on the same subject; this is a consistent and unbiased approach. Now let’s examine Paul’s writings on the subject of believers getting married:
As you can see, Paul clearly believed that the End was coming during the lifetime of his followers. In these verses, Christians ask Paul to comment on marriage, and he responds by saying that it is better not to get married because the “time is short”. Can anyone honestly say that Paul did not believe that the End was right around the corner? Paul’s statement regarding marriage only makes sense if he believed the End was coming very soon. It does not make sense if the End was supposed to come thousands of years later. Surely, he was not speaking to Christians 2,000 years later, who are still waiting for the End to come! Thus we can safely conclude that Paul was not inspired by God because he fails to meet the criteria set out by the Bible itself – a genuinely inspired person does not make false prophecies.
A Christian response to all of these points might be that Paul was just a fallible human being who made genuine mistakes in interpreting the Old Testament.
In reality it’s hard to make excuses for him and assume he made honest mistakes because according to the New Testament itself he had been a student of the leading authority on Jewish Law in Jerusalem, the famous Rabbi Gamaliel:
So, far from being ignorant, Paul was highly trained and sophisticated in his understanding of Jewish theology. Even if we accept the Christian response, for the sake of argument, then an even bigger issue emerges:
If Paul, as he himself claims, was guided by divine revelation then why was he inspired to make so many mistakes in quoting the Old Testament? Christian readers would do well to ponder this point.
As we have seen, Paul presented no credible biblical (or other) justification for his innovated doctrines. Quite bizarrely, in justifying his theology there was no appeal by Paul to what Jesus said or did; Christians would do themselves a service to reflect on this point. In fact, the one really good argument that Paul could not use is this: an appeal to the practice and teachings of Jesus. That would have been a legitimate appeal to authority – see what Jesus said and did. But Paul did not make this argument, precisely because he couldn’t – none of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament advocate Paul’s theology such as Original Sin and justification by faith alone. This further proves that what Paul taught was at odds with what Jesus himself practiced. Paul morphed the very Jewish teachings of Jesus into an unrecognisable religion for Gentiles, by basing it on lies and abuses of the Old Testament.
Perhaps even more fatal to Paul’s claim of an Apostle is his alleged divine inspiration. Any inspired message from God should be infallible, as by definition God is infallible. In this blog post I have tried to be fair and evaluated Paul not by Islamic standards, which incidentally he would also fail, but rather based on his own bold claims within the New Testament. It has been shown that contrary to his own claims, Paul’s message was very fallible, so it stands to reason that Paul was not genuinely inspired by God. So I ask Christian readers, why then should we pay attention to his teachings? I’ll leave you with the words of Jesus:
To learn more about Jesus from both the Islamic and Christian perspective, please download your free copy of the book “Jesus: Man, Messenger, Messiah” from the Iera website (click on image below):
1 – First Epistle to the Corinthians by C.K. Barrett, commentary on verse 52, page 381.
May Allah bless you and give you all the strength & knowledge you need to carryon
Most of these issues do not exist. Paul learned his Christianity from Barnabas who was very close to the disciples and possibly related to the apostle Peter. Acts 9 (ESV) – Saul in Jerusalem
26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Consider this discussion above. Was the apostle saint Paul wrong? – http://biblehub.com/isaiah/59-20.htm
Perhaps I’m missing the point, but I don’t see how Acts 9 resolves the problem of Paul misquoting (intentionally or otherwise) Isaiah 59:20. Please could you elaborate?
How does he misquote Isaiah 59:20 looking at various possible translations he seems accurate to me. Generally New Testament authors use the Septuagint when quoting the Old Testament.
Open up any version of the Bible and you will see that the reading for Isaiah 59:20 is similar to this:
“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord.
This is the correct reading from the Hebrew Masoretic Text. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest manuscripts that exist for the Old Testament, contain the following reading:
“And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the LORD.”
This closely matches the Masoretic Text. Paul may have been quoting from the Greek Septuagint, but this contains a variant that has significantly changed the meaning:
“And the deliverer shall come for Sion’s sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
It seems that Paul quotes the Septuagint to imply that the Messiah will remove godlessness, or sin, from “Jacob” (meaning the Israelites) – obviously a reference to the atoning sacrifice of the Crucifixion by Paul. The correct reading, as per the Masoretic Text and Dead Sea Scrolls, and as used by every Bible for Isaiah 59:20, actually states that the Messiah will come to those who have already repented from sin – clearly a very different meaning to what Paul implied.
Either Paul used the wrong version of the Old Testament in ignorance, or he was aware of the variants and purposely chose to use the incorrect reading in order to support his Crucifixion theology, which would make him a deceiver. Either way he’s not the inspired individual he claims to be…
I think you will find the orginal Hebrew can mean both. God causing people to turn from ungodliness and the people themselves having that repentant attitude and so I would not condemn the apostle Paul for this one. He is clearly quoting the LXX (Septuagint). Consider:
He seems to quote the Septuagint, but the reason why I’m not 100% certain is that there is a mismatch between him (“from Zion”) and the Septuagint (“for Sion’s sake”):
And the deliverer shall come for Sion’s sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. [Isaiah 59:20].
The original Hebrew “shuwb” is a doing verb, it’s an action:
“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent (“shuwb”, literally ‘turn back’) of their sins,” declares the Lord. [Isaiah 59:20]
Strong’s Lexicon gives it the meaning of “to return, turn back”. This is consistent with its use throughout the Old Testament. It’s not an intention or an attitude, but rather the physical act of abandoning sin. This is a good example:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn (“shuwb”) from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. [2 Chronicles 7:14]
So, assuming that he is quoting the Septuagint, why wasn’t he inspired to quote from the correct reading, the Hebrew? Paul quotes the Septuagint to imply that the Messiah will remove godlessness, or sin, from “Jacob” (meaning the Israelites) – obviously a reference to the atoning sacrifice of the Crucifixion by Paul. Hebrew Isaiah 59:20 actually states that the Messiah will come to those who have already turned away from sin – clearly a very different meaning to what Paul interpreted.
The question might be: who is doing the “turning back”? The LXX (Septuagint) translated it as the deliverer in which case the apostle Paul was correct. Obviously we know the the gospel is only effective for those who repent and follow the Messiah. The rest are still in darkness.
It boils down to this: if the LXX is the correct reading, then Paul was correct in quoting it. However if the Hebrew is the correct reading, then Paul is wrong and that disqualifies him from being an inspired individual.
This is my evidence that the Hebrew is correct (and therefore Paul is wrong):
– Virtually every English version of the Bible uses the Hebrew reading for Isaiah 59:20. I checked around 30 of them and can confirm this is the case:
These Bibles have been translated by some of the best scholars in Christianity. If this reading is wrong, the implication is that they all made a mistake. In which case I’m not sure if this is a ‘win’ for you, as it would mean that unreliable individuals were responsible for putting together your Scriptures. Also many of these individuals are Bible believing Christians, why didn’t the Holy Spirit prevent this mistake from happening? Was it unable to do so, or did it allow the mistake to happen? Either way there’s a serious problem.
– The ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest manuscripts in existence, support the Hebrew reading. It’s believed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes. The Hebrew Masoretic Text was written by a Jewish sect known as the Masoretes. So we have two independent Jewish sects, both using the same reading. With this in mind, surely it is the Greek Septuagint, which is the odd one out, that has the incorrect reading, rather than the independent Jewish sects who all corroborate one other?
– The Hebrew reading is consistent with general Jewish theology. Throughout the Torah God commands the Jewish people to avoid sin and obey His commands. If the Messiah is going to come along and remove their sin, as implied by Paul and as per the LXX, then this would be inconsistent with the rest of the Torah. So the LXX reading just doesn’t fit in as well with the rest of the Torah. Your view is also in disagreement with Jews who outright reject the LXX reading.
So, what’s your evidence that the LXX is correct? If you resort to blind faith, i.e. Paul is correct because he’s inspired, then at least admit that and I will have no issue with your personal beliefs. But you can’t expect anyone that is not a Christian to accept this view point when it flies in the face of all the historical and scholarly evidence that I’ve provided.
Assalamu Alaikum… MashaAllah you are doing a brilliant job here! I would like to meet you (all?). I am a young da’ee in NYC and want to learn directly from you people or just get the opportunity to talk to you brothers inshaAllah. Please email me back at the address I am sending this comment from
I wanted to correct you on the fact of Paul and the End Time prophecies. Paul DID expect the return of Christ to be imminent (as did most of the disciples) HOWEVER this is only because they did not know “the day nor the hour”. Let me further explain this:
1) Paul was being general when saying “we won’t all fall sleep (die)”. Christians believe that when Jesus returns we will be immediately changed.
2) Their mindset was it was going to happen SOON
Acts 1:6-67 says, They (disciples), therefore, indeed, having come together, were questioning him (Jesus), saying, `Lord, dost thou at this time restore the reign to Israel?’ and he said unto them, `It is not yours to know times or seasons that the Father did appoint in His own authority…
They didn’t know WHEN but EXPECTED it to be soon.
3) Also, in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Paul was referring to how Christians should act. Because the time is of the essence. We don’t know when Christ will return but when He does all the lost will die. He was saying this as an example of what type of mindset we ought to have. A Christians mindset is ALWAYS on trying to get the good news of Jesus Christ across because when you die or when He returns, there will be no more chances and we don’t want that for ANYONE.
4) Peter and Paul made prophecies, which seem to indicate that it would be some length of time. They go as follows:
2 Peter 3:4 “They will say (in the last days), “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
2 Timothy 3:2-3 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,…”
These two verses indicate that it would be awhile. However, I can CLEARLY see these two prophecies coming to pass today. Remember, in the days of Noah they didn’t believe him as Jesus says in Matthew 24:38-39:
“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be…”
As-salamu alaykum, I am a recent convert to Islam but grow up Catholic. I enjoyed your article but was thinking of a passage that seems to counter your arguement that Paul preached faith alone.
1 Corinthians 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
Paul seems to be saying that althought one could have faith to move mountains, it is nothing without charity or works.
I would appreciate your insight.