Did earliest Christians believe (alleged) crucifixion to be indispensible?

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Did earliest Christians believe (alleged) crucifixion to be indispensible?

An account of the earliest biblical Christians who did not believe crucifixion to be imperative!

 

Question Mark

Introduction, Background and Premise

 

Paul had made it indispensible for his followers that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion is the corner stone of Christianity. According to Paul’s doctrines, without Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice there is nothing else in Christianity:

 

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how thatChrist died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Co 15:1-4)

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.(1 Co 15:14)

 

The reason why Paul gave utmost importance to the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) is because, according to Paul (not all Christians as we would soon observe), Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice was the only way for the remission of sins:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb 9:22)

Remember that before Paul preached his branded theology, Old Testament Laws had already provided enough doctrines and teachings on remission of sins and salvation; no wonder Paul pre-empted Laws by stating that they are dead:

“But before the time for faith came, the Law kept us all locked up as prisoners until this coming faith should be revealed. And so the Law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might then be put right with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge of us.” (Galatians 3: 23-25)

Now, however, we are free from the Law, because we died to that which once held us prisoners. No longer do we serve in the old way of a written law, but in the new way of the Spirit.” (Romans 7:6)

Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version

In fact Paul went as far as to claim that with Laws remission of sins and salvationcannot be achieved:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16)

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  (Gal 3:11)

 

Furthermore, Paul even asserted that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice would be wasted if righteousness/salvation/atonement is achieved by any other means other than alleged cross:

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal 2:21)

 

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)

On the foregoing, Paul claimed that if Christ (peace be upon him) is not allegedly crucified and raised then the sins of believers would remain – it would not be blotted out:

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Co 15:17)

Thus, to sum up, Paul’s theology is:

  • Without alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) Christianity is vain.
  • The only mode of atonement is through the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)
  • OT Laws were allegedly rendered defunct with the arrival of Messiah (peace be upon him)…
  • …it is because if observation of OT Laws provided salvation then Messiah’s (peace be upon him) precious and “perfect” sacrifice is worthless.
  • Thus, conclusively, it is only the perfect (alleged) sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) which brings salvation and remission of sins.

So far so good, however, notice that it is only Paul who is preaching; he was not the only “apostle” preaching about Christianity – there were other stalwarts as well, like James.

In fact when we read James’ preaching (through his epistles) then he over and over again contravened Paul on key and very basic doctrines of Christianity.

James even contradicted Paul on the indispensability of the alleged crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him)! Consider the following passage, for instance:

“Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put in into practice. Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks closely into PERFECT LAW THAT SETS PEOPLE FREE, who keeps on paying attention to it, but puts it into practice – that person will be blessed by God in what he does. (James 1: 22-25, Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version)

Now please ponder with neutral mind. If indeed Paul’s assertions would have been universal representation of Christian doctrines, in other words, if Paul’s doctrines would have been the only theology in Christianity, then, James would have echoed with Paul that: emancipation comes ONLY by the alleged “blood of Christ”, man can never be justified with the works of the Laws on the contrary, he would “fall from grace”, Christ’s (peace be upon him) “perfect” sacrifice has obviated the observance of the Laws, on the foregoing, if anyone follows the Laws even after Messiah’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion then the alleged “perfect” sacrifice would be wasted so on and so forth.

 

However, contrary to all of the above, James postulates that Christian believershave to follow the Laws of the Old Testament to “set themselves free”, in other words, to emancipate themselves from their sins! He exhorts his disciples to not merely read the Laws but put them into practice for remission of their sins.

However, the issues are:

(I) Did not James know that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged “perfect” sacrifice has been offered which is more than enough, if not the only mode of remission of sins?

(II) Did not James know that with Christ (peace be upon him) the Laws which “sets people free” have come to an end?

(III) More importantly, did not James know that if Laws would “set people free” then Paul’s “lord and savior’s” precious sacrifice would be rendered “vain”? Refer Gal 2:21, 5:4.

It would be disrespectful to the knowledge of “apostle” James that he did not know all of the above. That being the case, the only logical inference to be made is: James either, did not consider Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion the only way of emancipation or perfect enough to “set people free”! It is because even after Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion, if James who is no less than Paul if not more than him, claims that Christians need to observe Laws which “set people free” – then it means beside Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice, Laws were also potent enough to emancipate people.

Acknowledging the obvious problems and contradiction with James’ doctrines, Christians Scholars have come out with weird and desperate, if not disrespectful and belittling, commentaries imputing that James did not had apostolic authority and that his preaching were not meant for Christians (!!??).

 

The Epistle of James is not addressed to the assembly, and does not take the ground of apostolic authority over the persons to whom it is sent. It is a practical exhortation which still recognises the twelve tribes and the connection of the christian Jews with them, as John addressed the Gentiles, although the Jewish people had their place before God. Thus the Spirit of God still acknowledges here the relationship with Israel, as in the other case the relationship with Gentiles, and the rights of God which are unchangeable, whatever may be the special privileges granted to the assembly or to Israel respectively. We know that historically the christian Jews remained Jews to the end of the New Testament history, and were even zealous for the law — to us a strange thing, but which God endured for a time.(John Darby’s Synopsis, James 1:1-27)

Observe very assiduously the important last sentence in the commentary. Notice that Darby makes two assertions:

(A)  Earliest Christians remained Jews, in other words, they remained loyal to OT Laws and subsequently doctrines promulgated by James.

(B)   To all those who follow Paul’s preached Christianity, James’ preaching            comes as a “strange thing”.

Both the above observations have very strong implications:

First observation, namely (A), imply that majority, if not all, earliest Christians (including James and other “apostles”) believed that even after the so called “perfect”, precious, and Law-ending sacrifice (alleged) of Messiah (peace be upon him), Old Testament Laws were viable and potent enough as an alternative mode besides the alleged sacrifice to “set people free”. Thus, majority, if not all, earliestChristians did not believe that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice was the only way of emancipation and that without it there could not be any remission of sins.

Secondly, that is observation (B) implies and further corroborates that indeed James’ doctrines were not in line with popular Christian doctrines, if not contradictory to Paul’s doctrines, otherwise it would not have engendered a “strange” reaction in John Darby – a follower of Paul’s doctrines.

Rather than exclaiming on James’ doctrines, Christians need to reconsider each position (that of James and Paul) because who knows James and all of earliestChristians would have had a similar “strange” reaction had they seen Christians of Paul’s thoughts.

More biblical proofs that alleged cross was not indispensible

 

James was not merely preaching but his actions proved that he and the earliestChristians did not believed the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) to be imperative and the only mode of salvation.

James and his colleagues in the Church of Jerusalem continued to practice Old Testament Laws and rituals including SIN – OFFERING! In fact what is more ironical is that they made Paul the leader of the OT rituals – the very same person who was championing that OT Laws had been rendered dead with Jesus (peace be upon him), Christ’s (peace be upon him) “perfect” sacrifice (alleged) sacrifice has obviated any need of observance of OT Laws, so on and so forth:

“When we arrived in Jerusalem, the believers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to see James; and all the church elders were present. Paul greeted them and gave a complete report of everything that God had done among the Gentiles through his work.After hearing him, they all praised God. Then they said, Brother Paul, you can see how many thousands of Jews have become believers, and how devoted they all are to the Law.They have been told that you have been teaching all the Jews who live in Gentile countries to abandon the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or follow the Jewish customs.They are sure to hear that you have arrived. What should be done, then?This is what we want you to do. There are four men here who have taken a vow. Go along with them and join them in the ceremony of purification and pay their expenses; then they will be able to shave their heads. In this way everyone will know that there is no truth in any of the things that they have been told about you, but that you yourself life in accordance with the Law of Moses.But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent them a letter telling them we decided that they must not eat any food that has been offered to idols, or any blood, or any animal that has been strangled, and that they must keep themselves from sexual immorality. So Paul took the men and the next day performed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple and gave notice of how many days it would be until the end of the period of purification,when a sacrifice would be offered for each one of them(Acts 21: 17-26. Today’s English Version)

The above ritual is core Old Testament system found in the Book of Numbers which symbolized forgiveness and remission of sins:

“When a Nazirite completes his vow, he shall perform the ritual. He shall go to the entrance of the Tent and present to the LORD three animals without any defects: a one-year-old male lamb for a burnt-offering, a one-year-old ewe lamb for a sin-offering, and a ram for a fellowship-offering.” (Numbers 6: 13-14, Today’s English Version)

Christians Scholars also agree that OT ritual as mentioned in Book of Numbers was used to purify and help remitting sins as they included SIN – OFFERINGS:

“And be at charges with them – Share with them the expense of the offerings required when the vow is completed. Those offerings were a ram of a year old for a burnt-offering, a sheep of the same age for sin-offering, a ram for a thank-offering, a basket of unleavened cakes, and a libation of wine.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Acts 21:24)

Here are multiple problems with the above account of Book of Acts:

(I) If James and his colleagues in the Jerusalem Church indeed believed like Paul that Christ (peace be upon him) has allegedly paid the most precious remission for their sins then why did they offered “sin-offering”?

(II) On the foregoing, if James and others believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) brought the Laws to an end then why did they at all care for the rituals of Book of Numbers – an OT Law.

(III) Why did Paul contradict his own teachings by not merely partaking but leading and even paying for the OT Laws and its rituals

a) Did he forget that his “lord and savior’s” has brought to end what he was executing?

b) Did not he had any scruple that by the  mere “useless” and “outward rule” he would gain nothing but on the contrary, Christ’s (peace be upon him) precious (alleged) sacrifice would be rendered “vain”?

 

c) On what basis did “apostle” Paul partake in the “purification ceremony”? Was not Paul inspired enough to know that sins of believers were purged with the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)?

 

d) In fact by partaking in the ceremony, Paul jeopardized his salvation since he previously claimed (c.f. 1 Co 15:17) that if Christ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice did not provide salvation then the faith is in vain andsins remain!

The very reason that James and the majority of earliest Christians still believed in the viability of OT laws and its rituals, especially, when it included SIN – OFFERINGin it, sends more than a message that although they might have respected the alleged sacrifice but they did not considered it to be the only mode of salvation or perfect enough!

In fact there are numerous Jamesian verses which lends support to the notion that James and his colleagues did not believed faith in alleged crucifixion complete enough for salvation because James strongly exhorted (to the point of contravening Paul) his followers to complement faith with the works of the Laws (as contrary to Paul’s faith-only doctrine):

“My brother, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers and sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.” (James 2: 14-17)

“But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” Do :You believe that there is only one God? Good!The demons also believe – and tremble with fear. You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless?” (James 2: 18-20)

Conclusion

 

On one hand we have Paul and his doctrines which enjoins Christian believers that after Christ (peace be upon him) OT Laws were rendered ineffective and the only mode of remission of sins and salvation is through the alleged cross of Christ (peace be upon him). Nevertheless, this notion was not entirely accepted by theearliest Christians as a whole including contemporary apostles.

Even after Christ’s alleged perfect and precious sacrifice, James emphatically preached that Christians need to observe the OT Laws because it “sets people free” – once again James was preaching this after Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion.

In fact, James wrote multiple passages just to defend the notion that mere faith in Christ and the alleged cross would not suffice, it has to be complemented with the works of the Laws!

James and earliest Christians, even after the alleged crucifixion of Christ (peace be upon him), not merely observed the first ten moral commandments but even observed the OT rituals punctiliously – the same rituals which Paul imputed to be “useless” and merely “outward rules”. What is even interesting is that, these rituals even included SIN-OFFERING in the form of sacrifice of animals which specifically meant to remit sins!

It does not end here, Paul who was hitherto championing inefficacy of OT Laws and their “uselessness” and plasticity (“outward rules”) was found not merely observing OT rituals but even leading and bearing the expenses of it! Thus, either contradicting himself and his “divinely inspired inspirations” or establishing that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion is not imperative enough!

Even after all of James’ otherwise preaching, if more popular Christianity wants to do away with Jamesian epistles then they need to justify why they trump James to Paul. Remember, James was the one who met Jesus (peace be upon him) in person – not Paul. Therefore, if James is not greater than Paul then he is, at least, no less either and in this scenario there need to be strong enough grounds to reject James to Paul.

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End Notes:

  • Emphasize wherever not matching with the original, is ours.
  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical text is taken from King James Version, e-Sword Version.

Crucifixion of Jesus

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13 Responses »

  1. paul did not follow christ james is brother of jesus he no jesus

  2. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry when Muslim apologists write blog posts about the theology of Paul. New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, has just a released a 1200 page tome on the topic, which is being received, debated and discussed internationally. And here is QMark trying to his convince his readers that he has any understanding or authority to speak on Pauline Theology and its collaboration/conflict with James.

    Is he aware of the Greco-Roman context and how this worked within the Jewish context? Paul’s Jewish heritage as a expert Pharisee, and yet a Roman citizen? Does he understand second temple Judaism, including all this period taught regarding soteriology, Torah, oral traditions, etc.

    If he did, he wouldn’t write such uneducated nonsense in the name of apologetics.

  3. @Paulus,

    Thanks for your note.

    Whatever I wrote was based on proofs with passages quoted from the text itself (and of course it is open for discussion and criticism as well). However, it was disappointing to read that rather than addressing the text that I quoted and the argument that I built around them, you committed the fallacy of appealing to authorities (N.T Wright) in this case.

    Thus, if you really have understand the “Greco-Roman context and how this worked within the Jewish context? Paul’s Jewish heritage as a expert Pharisee, and yet a Roman citizen? Does he understand second temple Judaism, including all this period taught regarding soteriology, Torah, oral traditions” then I invite you to critique my post and I promise you that I would go through it inshAllah.

    Sincerely,
    Q.M.

  4. Q.M.

    I did not appeal to authority since I didn’t offer any argument.I simply pointed out how naive it is to assume you have a monopoly on the Apostle’s theology, when NT scholars themselves debate the intracacies of Paul’s letters and soteriology, i.e. the New Perspective. This naivety is enhanced when one considered how you have attempted to pit Paul against James.

    Your argument is basically a false dichotomy. Once you realise that Paul and James use ‘justification’ differently, for example, your position becomes nothing more than special pleading (BTW, James only wrote one epistle). Paul’s soteriology did not exclude obedience to New Covenant commands and worship (see Romans 6:1-3). You isolated certain teachings of Paul, ignored others, and came to a conclusion based on a straw man. Ergo, reconciling James with Paul is not impossible (albeit difficult at times) as numerous scholars have demonstated (have you read any?).

    It is not surprising that the earlist Jewish Christians continued to follow certain aspects of the Torah- so do Christians at points! It has more to do with how Christ has fulfilled the Torah through the New Covenant (see Hebrews for a Jewish understanding of this), and how this understanding played out in first century Palestine as well as the Roman empire. Jesus himself informed the Pharisees that parts of the Torah were to combat sin, not to be eternally binding on God’s people (see Mt 19:7-9). So if Paul is guilty of rejecting the Law, so is Jesus! Is that where you want to go as a Muslim?

    Paul understood that the Law was put in place to lead to Christ. It was a shadow of the perfect, which came in the Messiah (again see Hebrews). It is comprehensively clear, once you read the totality of teaching on the law, justification and salvation, that the New Testament is harmonious on the topic.

  5. @Paulus,

    Thanks for your note.

    I am sorry but your words seem to be biased because your very own words and ideas can be used on you as well. Think about this if I say that just like you I also ” pointed out how naive it is to assume you have a monopoly on the Apostle’s theology” – the so called “New Perspective”.

    And that is why rather than beating around bush, if you could come to the arguments that I have pointed out since it seems you read a lot of scholars as you insist inquiring me if I have “read any?” of them. All those scholarly works must have given you enough confidence to address the inconsistencies that I have pointed out. Merely by claiming that I have pit James against Paul does not necessarily prove so, since NT is more than allusive that James and other council members of first century Jerusalem “church” were against Paul and his activities in Gentile land; add to this you own admission that “reconciling James with Paul is not impossible (albeit difficult at times)”!

    However, in the last part of your note you spoke a truth that “Paul understood that the Law was put in place to lead to Christ” – yes that is Paul, since James and Jesus (p) himself for that reason did not “understood” the concepts like Paul did.

    I hope to read the next time something “scholarly” that your esteemed self has been reading than banal Pauline church preaching that Jesus(p) was the “fulfillment” of Laws and the “shadow” phenomenon and others that you know better than me.

    Sincerely,
    Q.M.

  6. Q.M

    I did point out several errors (or admissions) in your argument.

    a) ‘justification’ language is used differently by Paul and James. So too is ‘works’. This is easily confirmed by reference to any commentary (tafsir) on the epistles in question.

    b) Paul’s overall soteriology did not exclude obedience to commands- I pointed you to Romans 6:1-3 as evidence.

    c) the writer to the Hebrews argues that the Law is only a shadow of that which is fulfilled in Christ’s sacrifice (Heb 10:1ff)- contrary to your claim, this is a non-Pauline theology.

    d) Jesus altered the Mosaic law on divorce (Matthew 19:7-9) which demonstrates that you were not only wrong, but that Paul the Apostle was actually right. Unless of course, you wish to dismiss the words of a man you believe to be a prophet?

    Therefore, your argument is errornous. Obviously I cannot dissect every distortion and misrepresentation you presented in a small comment. This is enough to discredit your overall thesis, however.

    Finally, it is evidentially provable that James accepted and supported Paul:

    “So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders …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…The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me…It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. (Acts 15ff)

    This testimony is precisely what Paul himself tells us: “James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.” (Gal 2:9)

    Your citation of Acts 21 is related to a specific problem in that historical context, not representative of the overall agreement amongst the Apostles. This is evident by the context of the chapter. It is natural to see a period of cross over between the two covenantal epochs, which actually adds credibility, rather than reducing it.

  7. @Paulus

    Thanks for your note once again.

    a.)While reading James’ epistle which is pretty plain in its words in conjunction with the situation of the first century Jerusalem “church” it is not hard to see that James and others with him did held on to the efficacy of the OT Laws and so their soteriology was sharply different from Paul’s; obviously then, in order to harmonize this virulent difference, the ” commentary (tafsir) on the epistles” would have to enforce that “‘justification’ language is used differently by Paul and James” – that is understandable!!

    b.) You quoted Romans 6:1-3 as “evidence” that Paul’s “soteriology did not exclude obedience to commands” when all the verse speaks is about a general instruction to the Pauline folk to avoid persisting in sins; an injunction which even a Pagan priest would give to his followers! On the contrary, I was not surprised to observe that you comfortably neglected the scores of passages I quoted from Pauline letters where Paul deemed OT Laws and their efficacy as “useless”!

    c.) You referred to the “the writer to the Hebrews argues that the Law is only a shadow of that which is fulfilled in Christ’s sacrifice (Heb 10:1ff)” but what about Jesus(p)! Why not refer to him rather than referring to an totally unnamed and unidentified entity (the “author” of Hebrews!!): did he also considered the Law as only a “shadow” to be fullfilled at his alleged death. And, when we refer to Jesus (p) he certainly did not considered the laws to have been fulfilled so much so to come to an end (Matthew 5:17-21) with his crucifixion; and this is certainly “contrary to your claim”, and this is certainly “non-Pauline theology”!

    d.) Jesus (p) did not altered the Mosaic Law on divorce, and since you read a lot of scholars, it is not befitting for me to enlighten you that Jesus (p) restored the strict law on divorce which was temporarily relaxed by Moses (p). Here is the verse, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning…” So if anybody “altered” the Law it was Moses (p), contrary to that which you tried to prove! This argument is further supported by what comes later in the same chapter c.f. Matthew 5:17-21!!

    Finally it was really interesting to read how you addressed the “specific problem” of Acts 21. It is easier, as a Pauline Christian, to swiftly neglect the inquisitive purification ceremony which was organized which was used by the council led by James against Paul to prove the latter’s loyalty to the OT laws!! What is even more embarrassing that Paul was made to even bear the entire cost of the ceremony when, at a different place in the NT, Paul expresses his abject financial condition and asks for financial support from his community; this proves that the ceremony was strict, very strict, into interrogating Paul and his dealings with Jews observing Mosaic Judaism. And talking of the “overall agreement” note that the apostles agreed only when James decided that Paul was to work only amongst Gentiles; in other words, Paul was systematically debarred from “witnessing” to the Jewish folk! This is serious to me as a non-Christian! And so it cannot be easily brushed aside as merely a small little “specific problem”!

    Would wait to learn more from you.

    Sincerely,
    Q.M.

    • Q.M.

      a) what you consider “plain” is debated endlessly, from book length commentaries to probably hundreds of journal articles. It is the height of ignorance or arrogance to dismiss or interpret the Epistle of James so readily to suit your agenda.

      b) this is Paul’s logic, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

      I’m not sure how you, as a Muslim, would disagree with this (apart from the last few words perhaps)? Do you not agree that we should avoid sin and be an instrument of righteousness? Be honest here. Yes, Paul argued that New Covenant believers are no longer under the Old Covenant Law, but this is because this is precisely what God had himself told us.

      ““The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,”declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”declares the LORD.“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

      This ‘New Covenant’ is precisely what the Messiah Jesus inaugurated.

      c) This is a red-herring. Deal with the evidence provided. Hebrews 10:1ff demonstrates that even Jewish believers, apart from Paul, understood the Law to only be temporary until the advent of the Messiah. Even James picks up on the theme in Jeremiah 31 and applies it to his Jewish believers; “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” This is precisely what Jesus taught in John 3, as well as what Paul taught in Ephesians 2.

      d) Moses did not alter the Law, since the Law was from God. I am surprised you would claim that a prophet did such a thing. Matthew 19:7 shows that Jesus repealed Mosaic Law, just like Paul, in light of the New Covenant, which is all I needed to prove and which you have now admitted. Ergo, your attack on Paul is defeated.

      e) I didn’t neglect Acts 21. I said that given the two epochs of history, from Old Covenant to New, that it is expected to have this cross over period of Jewish believers still adhering to certain principles of the Torah. But Paul’s point, which was agreed upon by James, Peter and John, was that the civil and ceremonial Laws was no longer obligatory upon followers of God. Why? Because the New Covenant of Jer 31:33 had come through the death and resurrection of the promised Messiah. This is precisely the point of Acts 15 and what we see in Galatians 2.

      The problem is you have missed the historical backdrop of the Old Covenant, coupled with the foreshadowing and promise of the New, and then proceed to interpret the Bible from the wrong context. It is thoroughly mindboggling and precisely why I baulk at Muslims who make these polemical arguments all the while ignoring the proceeding historical, theological and political landscape.

  8. @Paulus

    Thanks for your notes.

    a) I do not deny that the Jamesian letter has been discussed exhaustively in academic circles. But that does not mean we would not be able to read and understand what is written in obvious terms in the epistle. And when I read it in conjunction with the first century Jerusalem “church” headed by James as it came to be registered in the Book of Acts, I see James was precisely thwarting Paul when it came to preaching the Jews about Jesus (p). And do not you think that I may as well apply the same statement of “height of ignorance or arrogance to dismiss or interpret the Epistle of James so readily to suit your agenda” on you wherein you see James and Paul in harmony as if there was no friction; aren’t you interpreting to suit your agenda especially when you know that the topic has been “debated endlessly”! Thus, I believe that rather than deeming the *other perspective* as “height of ignorance or arrogance”, it would be better to allow space in between.

    b) There are several reasons why I do not think that your quotation works to prove that the OT laws were repealed. There are several reasons for it: (i) Israelites believed that the covenant was “everlasting” and so in this context I would interpret your quoted passage as a renewal of the breached covenant (by the Israelites) afresh – “new”. As if God gave one more chance to the Israelites to sort it out the next time after their initial folly. (ii) Jesus (p) vehemently opposed the revoking of the OT laws; this follows what I wrote in (i). That is, he was in confluence with his ancestral traditions – c.f. Matthew 5:17-21. That is why when I read something like “This ‘New Covenant’ is precisely what the Messiah Jesus inaugurated.” I feel this is so much unlike Jesus (p) and so much like Pauline tone. (iii) “Christians” as close to Jesus (p) as James continued to persist in the OT laws which Paul wanted to “tear down”. In fact it was the modus operandi of the Jerusalem apostles to stick to the OT laws even after the biblical resurrection of Jesus (p). I would not be able to write everything here; but I may humbly request you to refer to my other papers written on the topic at “http://donotsaytrinity.wordpress.com/category/christianity/paul/” (refer to my earlier posts on Paul, if you may).

    c) Really, do you really think it was a red-herring!! I thought I was appealing to the words of your “savior” who has more authority than the nameless author of Hebrews! In any case, it is extremely difficult for me to accept your assertion that “even Jewish believers, apart from Paul, understood the Law to only be temporary until the advent of the Messiah.” How in the world is it possible when Jesus (p) required out of his followers – true followers – to keep the laws over and over again (in the pages of the gospel(s)). Reading Acts (of James and other senior Jerusalem “church” members) and James’s Epistle further distances me from accepting your assertion. In fact I see that by comfortably neglecting the words of Jesus (p) as recorded in Matthew 5:17-21 and tossing it for Hebrews, you are not doing any justice to the words of Jesus(p).

    d) If you may please re-read, I implied that Moses (p) gave flexibility through divorce to the Israelites; I never said or implied that he did this on his *own* authority without the sanctioning from God; can you show me such a thing if I did! So if you may not put words into my mouth! And as a Pauline Christian you would persist to claim that ” Matthew 19:7 shows that Jesus repealed Mosaic Law,…” since it lays good foundation for your to later claim that “…just like Paul, in light of the New Covenant” 🙂

    e) This is one of the most curious points I have been interested in while reading the New Testament and that is why I would anticipate eagerly to read your views. The “epoch” explanation does not convince me as a non-Christian because given the fact that the first century saw the best “Christians” to have ever walked on the face of the earth, I find it terribly difficult to accept that they would be ” still adhering to certain principles of the Torah.”!? If the Torah came to an end with the biblical crucifixion and resurrection as Paul so emphatically asserts in his writings, then observing Torah laws and *rituals* should have been immediately ceased with the biblical crucifixion and resurrection! On the foregoing, the purification ceremony in Jerusalem of Acts does not make any sense to me! If you may explain this to me.

    And for another issue, James did not agree with Paul but with the condition that Paul would work with Gentiles alone; for the Jews, James would head the charge; and that too the relaxation of Jewish circumcision with Gentile converts was all that James concurred with Paul at the council meeting of Acts 15! What this implies is that James did not allow any abolishing of OT laws for Jewish believers (while Paul insisted upon it) and so it cannot be generalized upon James that he agreed with everything Paul wanted to institute in the absence of Jesus (p) – this is a very important point: to precisely see where James agreed with Paul *and where he vehemently did not*!!

    Finally, and humbly, I do not see anything worthwhile discussing of whatever you wrote in the last paragraph.

    Sincerely,
    Q.M.

  9. Q.M

    I’m not going to continue to dissect every comment you make. It is quite clear that you have a pre-conceived understanding of Matthew 5:17ff, and interpret everything from that grid.
    So when I offer you evidence from Acts, from Paul’s epistles as well as from Hebrews, you have simply dismissed them based on your understanding of the Sermon on the Mount. For example:

    “That is why when I read something like “This ‘New Covenant’ is precisely what the Messiah Jesus inaugurated.” I feel this is so much unlike Jesus (p) and so much like Pauline tone.”

    While this is your opinion, that is simply not what the Jewish scriptures teach. I gave you Jer 31:33 as evidence that God himself told us that he would institute a ‘New Covenant’. Ergo, it is not surprising to see first century Jews, when they see Jesus, as understanding that the ‘New Covenant’ had come. This is precisely why the “kingdom of God” is central to Jesus’ ministry and teaching.
    Further, even James’ epistles reflects this theology of the kingdom and Law (2:5; 2:10)

    Jesus’ obeyed the Law because it was part of his ministry and purpose. By doing so, and being the only person to have ever done so, his perfect righteousness can be bestowed upon believers. This is why we see a change in the Old Covenant obedience AFTER the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus’ obedience to the Law is as central to the gospel as is his death and resurrection- they are like two sides of one coin. His obedience cannot be isolated from his sacrifice.
    This is why James tells us (as does Paul actually), “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). All people, except Jesus, have broken the Law and stand condemned as have broken all of it. Such arguments can only be understood under the umbrella of the Torah, Zabur and Prophets with a coherent story line. Hence why the early Jewish Christians taught such things- they understood the whole storyline of the Old and New Covenants.

    With this said, now we know why Jesus told his disciples that nothing from the Law would be removed until the perfect comes- the perfect came in the obedience, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. In short, the New Covenant epoch began.
    Now, don’t forget that the Jewish Christians understanding of all these things took time, as we see recorded in the book of Acts. They had meetings, arguments, councils, etc, over the course of several decades. So when you read Paul, James or anybody else for that matter, remember that these writings are part of a storyline. These men were witnesses of the New Covenant era and had to wrestle with how the Torah fit into the plot line. This didn’t happen in a bubble. And so Acts 21 is not difficult to comprehend once you consider the historical milieu.

    I’m sure you do the same with the Quran and Muhammad, looking into the historical setting to understand the ayats of the Quran. Please don’t ignore the same for the Bible. Is is completely natural for new events and understandings to take time. When someone accepts Islam, do they suddenly understand all Islamic doctrine and practices correctly? Or does it takes days, months and years?
    So I conclude by repeating that you have put all your eggs into Matthew 5:17ff and Acts 21, but have ignored the historical, theological and religious backdrop to those texts. Ergo, your position is rather weak and leaves you rejecting the witness of several early Jewish Christian writers since it contradicts your pre-concieved conclusions.

    • @ paulus,
      “torah were to combat sin, not to be eternally binding on God’s people (see mt 19:7-9)
      So if paul is quilty of rejecting d law, so is jesus! Is that where u want to go as a muslim?

      This was very interesting.
      I wonder how u ppl sometimes discern ur cripture just to suit ur paganism.

      If am nt mistaken, u are telling us that jesus is abolishing the mosaic law in mt 19:7-9 and finally concluded that paul did as jesus. But if truely u av the holy spirit in u to interprete biblical verses, i see no reason y u would nt av made a refferences to the historical background of ur proof as u used to claim.

      Starting from verse 3 of ur proof above we can see how jesus’ enemies are looking for his fault by TESTING HIM.
      Or can u refrence thier folly question from any scripture where God/Moses Commands that “its lawful to divorce ones wife FOR JUST ANY REASON”?, men, they were only trying to put him in problem so that he could be conderm to death.
      Jesus in his wiseness did not look at their folly but redirected them to genesis 2 that what God has joined let no man separate it and mala.2:14-16 that God hates divorces, thus jesus says from d beginning it was not permited to divorce so cos of the HARDNESs OF THEIR HEARTS (like commiting adultry), moses permited them to divorce legally by issueing Certificate of divorce. And once a man divorces his wife and mary another wife or vise vesa, it is unlawful to get back to each other again. (see deut 24:19, 28 and 1).
      And jesus was clearing this misconception and u said he has changed the law, pls where is the abolition in ur proof?

  10. Yes, you are mistaken on several points. I agree with the historical setting. However, that does not change the fact that Jesus directed them to something outside of the civil laws of the Torah; Jesus directed them to a time before the Torah had even been given, to the original creation.

    Ergo, this demonstrates that the Torah was not the final authority on all matters, and that portions of the Torah (civil and ceremonial) were temporary laws for the nation of Israel. ONly God’ moral laws are absolute. Christians have recognised this for centuries, yet Muslims still fail to understand the distinction(s).

    This is confirmed by Jesus’ addition to the Torah, “you have heard it said…but I say to you…”. Who, apart from God, had the authority to redirect the Jews away from the Torah or to add to the Torah? Honestly, think about it!

    Now, the difference is this: Jesus’ obedience to the Torah was essential for his ministry. Had he not obeyed the law faultlessly, he would not have been the perfect sacrifice. This is why, for example, after his death and resurrection, the early Jewish Christians began to understand that the Torah was simply a shadow of things to come. The fulfillment had come in Christ. The New Covenant epoch had begun. Hence, James, Hebrews, as well as the Pauline epistles expound on these themes.

    I suspect that many Muslims lack this theological backdrop and do not understand the purpose and mission of Jesus the Messiah according to the Old and New Testaments. Instead, they interpret and read the Bible through the grid of the Quran and Islamic theology.

  11. “I gave you Jer 31:33 as evidence that God himself told us that he would institute a ‘New Covenant’.”

    The days are surely coming, says Yahweh, when I
    will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and the house of Judah. It will not be like the cove-
    nant that I made with their ancestors when I took
    them by the hand to bring them out of the land of
    Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was
    their husband, says Yahweh. But this is the cove-
    nant that I will make with the house of Israel after
    those days, says Yahweh: I will put my law within
    them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will
    be their God, and they shall be my people. No long-
    er shall they teach one another, or say to each oth-
    er, ‘Know Yahweh,’ for they shall all know me, from
    the least of them to the greatest, says Yahweh; for I
    will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin
    no more. (Jer 31:31-34)

    what has this covenant got ANY thing to do with a god who creates flesh for himself , gets it murdered and pins his law to a cross to bring about ‘new cov’ ? ABSOLUTELY nothing.

    the torah says that all of yhwhs LAWS = emunah

    “The most striking aspect of the new covenant is
    that it will be written on the people’s hearts. It will,
    in effect, be an unbreakable covenant. We find here
    a significant shift in expectations about the future.
    It was of the essence of the Sinai covenant that it
    demanded free choice, and therefore entailed the
    possibility of a negative response. But this cove-
    nant is judged to have failed [i.e., not because of a
    deficiency within it, but because of the deficiency
    within the people of God]. The new internalized
    covenant will be foolproof, but at a price. A situa-
    tion where people are PROGRAMMED, so to speak, to
    behave in a certain way would no longer corre-
    spond to human history as we know it. There is al-
    ways some tension between UTOPIAN thinking, the
    dream of a perfect society, and free will, which in-
    evitably leads to imperfection.5 ”

    THIS aint got anything to do with christianity

    “Jeremiah is not envisioning a more perfect law for a world in which sin still exists. He’s envisioning a
    world without sin. Therefore, “concessionary laws” will obviously be rendered obsolete. But nowhere in Jeremiah 31, or anywhere
    else, are we ever told that these laws are imperfect. It’s the people that are imperfect. We must resist the urge to read Hebrew Bible
    texts anachronistically through the (different) lenses of the New Testament. ”

    “For Jeremiah, the era of the new covenant was an era in which teachers were no longer necessary, be-
    cause everyone was made fully conscious and was fully transformed by the inscription of the law upon their hearts”

    paul had to go and correct the disputes within his churches, but jeremiah predicted a covenant where no teachers or correction would be required because everyone would know what is right .

    paul had to teach SINFUL christians who yhwh WAs , but jeremiah says, “No long-
    er shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know Yahweh,’ “

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