Tuesday 13 May 2014

Defense of Paul of Tarsus: Response to a Muslim

I have written articles defending the apostleship of Paul which can be found in these articles:
Read this articles first if you want more information on this issue.

I would also recommend Keith Thompson's article on the historical reliability of Paul:

I came across an article a while back penned by I assume to be a Muslim, considering the blog links to another blog which links to another to do with Islam. The original article can be found here: http://truthisproven.blogspot.co.uk/2007/12/paul.html

Let's begin with our refutation of this article shall we?
Paul never met Jesus in his life.In his early life before his 'self-professed' Christianity, his name was Saul and he used to be a persecutor of the Christians. On the road to Damascus, while on assignment to harass the Christians (after Jesus had left the world) according to his own claim, he saw a vision of Christ, after which, he claimed, that Jesus gave him the authority of teaching in his name."

The funny thing is this same author quotes the book of Acts but fails to mention an important detail which I will be mentioning later on.

"Paul's vision is recorded three times in the NT and in all three places, it contradicts.

1. In ACTS 9:3-7, it is stated that only Paul fell to the ground on seeing the light while the others who journeyed with him stood speechless.
2. ACTS 26:14 says they ALL fell to the ground."

What we have here is not even an accurate reading of the contexts of the passages. It is obvious the person hasn't read carefully what the passages even say.
Here is what Acts 9 says:
"9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 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. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

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

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 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. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything."
First let's tackle chapter 26:
"12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’"

Luke only records Paul falling down in Chapter 9 because he is SPECIFICALLY referring to him and what HE (Paul) experienced and in chapter 26 records the event as Paul relayed it to his audience, namely Paul tells you what else transpired at the event, namely the falling over of his companions. Furthermore, Acts 9 tells us that the men stood speechless AFTER Paul had been spoken to, NOT BEFORE, so presumably they got back up. It is safe to believe and assert that both accounts are accurate. Acts 9 saying that Paul falling to the ground and leaving out the men doing the same in Acts 26 is not a contradiction. Does Luke have to record every single detail ad infinitum in his book? no he does not. You have to take the book as a whole.

Now my opponents next points.

"3. ACTS 9:3-7 states that the people who journeyed with Paul didn't see anyone but heard a voice.

4. ACTS 22:6-9 says that those who were with Paul saw the light but DID NOT hear the voice of the speaker."

In Acts 22 we read this:
"6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me."

And to re-quote Acts 9:7-9:
"7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 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. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.""

Actually in both contexts the voice was heard, What Paul does in Acts 22 is elaborate on the events in Acts 9 that Luke omits. The companions probably did hear a noise, but they didn't understand what was being said.

John Gill makes the following observation in this passage regarding this issue of hearing the voice:
"And the men which journeyed with him,.... Out of respect to him, to keep him company; or rather to assist him in his designs: 

stood speechless: astonished and amazed, they had not power to speak one word, nor to rise from the ground, and move one step forward; they were as if they were thunderstruck, and fastened to the earth; for this standing is not opposed to their being fallen to the earth, but to their going forward, and only expresses the surprise and stupidity that had seized them: 

hearing a voice, but seeing no man; that is, they heard the voice of Saul, saying, who art thou? and what wilt thou have me to do? but saw nobody that he spoke to, which surprised them; for it is certain they did not hear the voice of Christ, that spake to him, Acts 22:9 or if they heard the voice of Christ, it was only the sound of his voice, but did not understand what he said; but the former seems rather to be the sense, and the best way of reconciling the two passages. "

"And they that were with me saw indeed the light,.... For it shone about them, as well as Saul: 

and were afraid; the Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions, have not this clause; but it stands in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions; the suddenness, greatness, and extraordinariness of the light surprised them, for it was even miraculous: 

but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me: they heard the voice of Saul, but not the voice of Christ; at least they did not hear it so as to understand it; See Gill on Acts 9:7. "

Now here is the rest of chapter 9 which our Muslim friend FAILED to quote:
"10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 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. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

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

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

The words of Jesus speaking from heaven are recorded by Luke in this chapter. Notice what I have underlined, Jesus is commanding Ananias to heal Paul so that he can use Paul as his willing instrument of salvation to preach the Gospel to the nations. Not only is Jesus endorsing Paul, he is giving a command as God in heaven. So it is clear that Jesus did visit Paul on the Damascus road. If this writer is actually a Muslim, he has no choice but to accept Christ's words in Acts 9.

Now we are tackling the next issue:
"Jesus says...

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. Whosoever will break one least of these commandments and shall teach men so shall be called last in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you unless your righteosness exceeds the righteosness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mathew 5:17-20

Paul says...

'Christians' are dead to the Law of God through the body of Christ.
Romans 7:14"

To reiterate a point I made in response to Rabbi Eli Cohen, Jesus is referring to his goal that he is coming to accomplish and that he is not setting aside the Law and the Prophets. This doesn't mean that Gentiles are to observe the Torah in it's entirety and I write on this subject here: http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/observance-of-torah-demanded-of-gentiles.html

Fulfilling of the law is not the same as abolishing it. Jesus fulfills the demands that the Torah requires and thus there are certain commands that needn't be carried out by virtue of him fulfilling those requirements. I also direct people to this article for other pieces of information regarding the laws pertaining to women raised by Yehuda Yisroel and others: http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-good-bad-or-strange-fulfillment.html.

Paul in Romans 7:14 says:
"14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin."

The author is quoting from Romans 7:4, but that's a typo and we can make mistakes, I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt on this point.


If one is to read Romans 7 carefully, Paul speaks on the beauty of God's law but also is making the point that the Law is there to show how bad you are as a person and that you are in need of God's righteousness in order to save you from sin. Paul even says that "I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”" (Romans 7:7). While Christians do not have to observe the entire Torah, they are still called to live holy lives after they have been regenerated and accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

"Paul is the inventor of original sin (ROMANS 5:12, 1 CORINTHIANS 15:21-22) whereas original sin does not exist in any other place, not even the Old Testament."

Oh really, Show me where it doesn't exist, because it does. Feel free to look at the response to Sophiee Saguy of MessiahTruth on the issue of original sin in the TANAKH: http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/adam-eve-and-fall-response-to-sophiee.html.

Jesus even knew that men's hearts were corrupt, such with the Pharisees and even the rich ruler. There were individuals who were righteous in Israel by virtue of God's grace such as Zechariah and Elizabeth, as well as Simon whom Jesus saw under the fig tree.

"Paul: On his own admittance being cunning, used deceit "But be it so, I did not burden you nevertheless, being crafty, I CAUGHT YOU WITH GUILE."
2 CORINTHIANS 12:16(GUILE: means ruse, sharp practice, treachery, trickery and wiliness.)".

Paul is not endorsing lying nor using this tactic. He condemns this in his own letters and this is even found in the SAME letter the author quotes:
Chapter 7 says:
"2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds."

Chapter 6 says:
"3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

and Chapter 2 says:
"14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God."

Paul is engaging in sarcasm and even John Gill affirms this point:
"nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile; so say the false apostles of me; for these are not the words of the apostle in his own person; nor to be understood of any spiritual craft, or lawful cunning and prudent artifices used by him, to allure and draw the Corinthians into a good liking and opinion of the Gospel and of his ministry, and so caught them, and was the happy means of their conversion; but they are spoken in the person of the false apostles, charging him with a wicked and criminal craftiness, by making use of other persons in a sly underhanded way, to get this church's money, when he pretended to preach the Gospel freely; to which he answers in the next verse."

And what does the next verse say? He asks a question.
"2 Corinthians 12:17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?"

The Corinthians should of known that Paul didn't resort to trickery or deception at all, but these are the claims of his opponents, those who are LYING about Paul.

"Paul is a blasphemer

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.(1 Corinthians 1:25)

Leviticus 24:16
anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death.

Jesus said...

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
(Matthew 5:22)"

Jesus doesn't say that calling people fools in ans of themselves is bad, he is referring to hateful, bitter anger rather than righteous rebuking anger. Paul is not engaging in blasphemy in the context.

"Paul is a blasphemer.

Paul believed Jesus rose from the dead as a spirit, not a physical body.

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
(1 Corinthians 15:44)

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
(1 Corinthians 15:50)

To the contrary, Jesus ascended to Heaven in a physical body (Luke 24:51).

Paul denied the stories of Elijah and Elisha resurrecting dead bodies to their former state (2Kgs. 17:20-23).
He denies, God, Jesus, other Prophets, he opposesBarnabas and Peter strictly because they teach Islam, no divinity of Jesus and no crucifixion."

This is a lie that the author is claiming. This is what Paul is actually saying in 1 Corinthians 15:
"35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 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. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]"

Paul is actually making a point that Christians will be given a NEW PHYSICAL BODY at the time of the resurrection. It is our bodies now made incorruptible by God and will no longer see corruption in light of this fact. He is not even teaching anything comparable to Gnosticism or even Docetism who deny the humanity of Jesus.

Sam Shamoun and David Wood make excellent points on this in a video they did called "Refuting Zakir Naik on the Crucifixion of Jesus"(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI-UbbwvFVc Watch from 23:29-28:55).

Thus his appeal to the resurrection or rather revivals conducted by Elijah and Elisha don't help his case, because the people in 2 Kings are not given incorruptible bodies after they were risen from the dead and Paul is not denying that Jesus went to heaven in a physical body. That is a misreading and a perversion of the Biblical texts.

More arguments shall be covered in another article

Answering Judaism.

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