Does New Testament deny followers of Jesus (p) to be “Muslims”?


Does New Testament deny followers of Jesus (p) to be “Muslims”?

A look into New Testament beyond mere “Christian” disciples of Jesus (p)

 

Question Mark

 

Introduction

In the last installment we proved that Qur’an does not lend any veracity to the “Bible”. We also quoted that Qur’an does claim the original followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) to be Muslims (c.f. Qur’an 3:52, 5:111); this obviously offends Christians like Sam Shamoun who claims that Qur’an is at historical “error”.

Therefore, in this part, we would consider New Testament itself for the validity of the Qur’anic assertion. We would see that there were many “other-apostles” of Jesus (peace be upon him) albeit, sarcastically called as “chief-apostles” by Paul (c.f. 2 Corinthians 11:5), and put under extremely negative light (as expected) who, interestingly, had beliefs very similar to the Qur’anic claim!

Let Loose the Letters

 

Most of the Epistles of the New Testament were written to address specific issues which the fledgling first century (earliest) churches were facing. In this regard, Pauline epistles to Corinthians are of immediate interest to us since they relate to our investigation quite precisely.

However, before we actually delve into the epistle, it is important to observe the tone which Paul has used. Consider the following “verses”:

     “From Paul, who was called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes –” (1 Corinthians 1:1)

Note that Paul starts off by strongly emphasizing that it was by the “will” of God Himself that he became an apostle of Jesus (peace be upon him). In other words, he wanted to assert his apostolic authority over the Corinthians. This phenomenon is interspersed throughout the epistle. Consider a similar emphasis again merely eight verses later:

     “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my brothers…” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Paul did not find it redundant to reiterate his “apostolic” authority one more time:

     “So then, we do not speak in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13)

Why was Paul so concerned to exert his apostolic authority so often? Probably because masses were not recognizing him as any so-called “apostle” of Jesus (peace be upon him). In fact, as we would soon explore, Paul was indeed unrecognized to have any “apostolic authority”. This would have a close link with our principal investigation: whether Jesus (peace be upon him) had Muslim followers? We would start from the very reason why Paul was made to write the letters to the Corinthians!

Paul had been informed that there was a vitriolic schism in the “Christian” community of Corinth and so he dispatches letters to the Corinthians addressing the issue; exhorting people to unite (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:11). However, the nature of the dispute is very crucial because the earliest “Christian” community was divided over the apostles:

     “Let me put it this way: each one of you says something different. One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; and another,     “I follow Christ.”” (1 Corinthians 1:12, Good News Edition)

The above quotation indicates that the preaching of different apostles were different. (And they differed very arduously as we would subsequently observe.) Otherwise it makes no sense that the community would be divided over apostles if they were monolithic.

Moreover the last part of the citation is utmost important since it alludes to a particular group in the community which denied to follow any so-called “apostles” than Jesus (peace be upon him) himself! Who could be these people? New Testament provides meager information about these “Christ-followers”; however, we can be sure that they cannot be Jews since they recognized Jesus (peace be upon him) as “Christ”. Similarly, they cannot be “Christians” either, that is, the “orthodox” Pauline Christians – believing cross, alleged death and resurrection and deity of Jesus (p) – since they rejected Paul to follow Jesus (peace be upon him); be mindful that there was a certain group who was claiming to be “Paul-followers”; and these “Christ-followers” did not coincide with them in their declaration! Thus, if this group was neither Jewish nor Christian, then obviously there remains a big question as to who were these people?

Moreover, why this group choose to follow Jesus (peace be upon him) himself rejecting multiple “apostles” at their disposition who were readily, in turn, claiming to follow Jesus (peace be upon him), Paul for example (c.f. 1 Corinthians 11:1). Did not they know that these were “apostles” either handpicked or ‘supernaturally’ chosen en-route Damascus by Jesus (peace be upon him) himself? The only reason they would reject “apostles” to follow Jesus (peace be upon him) is when the apostles differed from Jesus (peace be upon him) so much so that they thought it is best to follow Christ (peace be upon him) himself rather than following differing apostles!

We cannot even dash off these Christ-followers as “heretics”; they can only be condemned as heretics when the condemner is presupposed to be an “orthodox”! In other words, it depends on the perspective one is looking from. For it is sure that Paul and his preaching were “heretical” for these “Christ-followers”, as we would soon observe through the pages of New Testament!

And thus, as discussed above, if this particular group was neither Jewish nor Christian then it certainly opens up the contention that followership of Jesus (peace be upon him) was not merely restricted to those who became positively famous through the pages of New Testament and subsequently in the “orthodox” churches as “Christians”. And so, for the rest of the paper we would further substantiate this notion. In the course, we would indirectly glean intriguing deductions that groups like “Christ-followers” denied deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) to consider him as mere mortal thus further corroborating the Qur’anic assertion that original followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) were Muslims.

Finally, it is worthwhile to note that the historical, Muslim followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) had to follow Jesus (peace be upon him) himself than any other “apostle” just like contemporary Muslims have to follow Mohammad (peace be upon him) than any other teacher no matter how influential s/he is and if s/he differs from Mohammad (peace be upon him) himself! So in this context, these Christ-followers come very close to the Qur’anic assertion that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) original followers were Muslims: following him (p); rejecting intricate philosophies (trinity, vicarious atonement) of “apostles”, to submit their wills to God alone.

“Apostle” Paul rejected at Corinth

Remember that the first Pauline letter to the Corinthians was written because particular groups in the community chose individual apostles for themselves. It was not merely an issue of choosing one from the wide range of apostles, rather it entailed with it rejecting others while choosing the one for the particular group. As such those group who chose apostles other than Paul, or even those who ultimately chose Christ (peace be upon him) himself, rejected Paul (obviously for his preaching):

“Am I not a free man? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord? And aren’t you the result of my work for the Lord? Even if others do not accept me as an apostle, surely you do! Because of your life in union with the Lord you yourselves are proof of the fact that I am an apostle.” (1 Corinthians 9:1-2)

Recall that at the start of this paper we noted that Paul, in this first letter to the Corinthians, chose a tone to defend his apostleship at Corinth, albeit, hitherto, indirectly. However, at this point in the letter, things just went out of hand where he had to make explicit appeal for his apostleship. Nevertheless, in a way, they also provide information as to the objections which the opponents of Paul raised. Paul appeals that because he has “seen” Jesus (peace be upon him) and “worked” for him with results, therefore, he must be a bona fide apostle!

However, why did Paul felt the need to appeal these specific notions? Probably because these were the primary arguments, amongst others, raised against his apostleship!: Corinthians were sure that Paul never consorted with Jesus (peace be upon him) in real time and the only information about Paul “seeing” Jesus (peace be upon him) comes after Jesus’(p) alleged death and only through hearsay to the Corinthians (in fact to almost everybody for that reason).

Similarly, Paul’s “work” could well have been another reason for his opposition. To be sure, Paul’s primary “work”, in other words, his preaching, was salvation through the alleged death and resurrection of Christ (peace be upon him) on cross. This could have gone unintelligible with his Corinthian opponents:

“For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. Jews [1.] want miracles for proof and Greeks look for wisdom. As for us we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25)

And therefore, Paul appeals to support these notions with a hope that even if other factions have denied his apostleship, at least, those who are apparently loyal to him would not doubt them.

More Issues with Paul and His preaching in Corinth

It was not that opposing groups in Corinth were merely following their apostles or “Christ”; in fact they were on full-fledged ministry against Paul and his preaching:

“I wish you would tolerate me, even when I am a bit foolish. Please do! I am jealous for you, just as God is; you are like a pure virgin whom I have promised in marriage to one man only Christ himself. I am afraid that your minds will be corrupted and that you will abandon your full and pure devotion to Christ – in the same way that Eve was deceived by snake’s clever lies. For you gladly tolerate anyone who comes to you and preaches a different Jesus, not the one we preached; and you accept a spirit and a gospel completely different from the Spirit and the gospel you received from us!” (2 Corinthians 11: 1-4) [2.]

Notice that “apostles” in Corinth were teaching a “different Jesus” and a “gospel completely different”. This gospel preaching about Jesus (peace be upon him) was so fundamentally different from Paul that he had premonitions that people might abandon “full” and “pure” “devotion” to Christ (peace be upon him).

According to standard Pauline, Trinitarian theology, “devotion” to Christ (peace be upon him) means services to Jesus (peace be upon him) while bearing him as “divine” “God” – the “second” in the divinity of “three”! Thus, inferably, we have a proof in the above polemical passage that opposing “apostles” in Corinth were specifically preaching a non-divine Jesus (peace be upon him). As celebrated Bible expositor Albert Barnes specifically comments on the same:

Ye might well bear with him – Margin, “with me.” The word “him” is not in the Greek; but is probably to be supplied. The sense is, there would then be some excuse for your conduct. There would be some reason why you should welcome such teachers. But if this cannot be done; if they can preach no other and no better gospel and Saviour than I have done, then there is no excuse. There is no reason why you should follow such teachers and forsake those who were your earliest guides in religion. – Let us never forsake the gospel which we have until we are sure we can get a better. Let us adhere to the simple doctrines of the New Testament until some one can furnish better and clearer doctrines. Let us follow the rules of Christ in our opinions and our conduct; our plans, our mode of worship, our dress, and our amusements, engagements, and company, until we can certainly ascertain that there are better rules. A man is foolish for making any change until he has evidence that he is likely to better himself; and it remains yet to be proved that anyone has ever bettered himself or his family by forsaking the simple doctrines of the Bible, and embracing a philosophical speculation; by forsaking the scriptural views of the Saviour as the incarnate God, and embracing the views which represent him as a mere man; by forsaking the simple and plain rules of Christ about our manner of life, our dress, and our words and actions, and embracing those which are recommended by mere fashion and by the customs of a frivolous world. (2 Corinthians 11:4, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

 

As expected Barnes has a tone-down for any gospel message portraying Jesus (peace be upon him) other than as portrayed by Paul simply because he assumes/believes Paul (and himself) to be an “orthodox” Christian! And therefore, the Pauline opponents, for him, would have to be “heretics” incompetent of producing anything better than Paul. Nevertheless, as we argued earlier, the other-apostles at Corinth would have assumed exactly the same for their opponents. For them, they were “orthodox” and Paul and his supporters were “heretics”. However, in any case, no matter from which perspective we are looking from, for sure, we had groups as early as Paul, preaching a Jesus (peace be upon him) who was a “mere man” than any pagan influenced “incarnate god”.

Likewise, noted New Testament commentator Vincent also informs that at Corinth a Jesus (peace be upon him) of different “identity” and “nature” was proposed:

Another Jesus – another Spirit (ἄλλον  – ἕτερον)

 

Rev., another Jesus, a different Spirit. See on Mat_6:24. Another denies the identity; a different denies the similarity of nature. It is the difference of “individuality and kind” (Alford). (2 Corinthians 11:4, Vincent’s Word Studies)

 

As touted in churches, the “orthodox” Pauline “identity” and “nature” of Jesus (peace be upon him) was that he was “divine” Son of God, a “divine” savior and intercessor, the very “divine” second god-person of Trinitarian godhead, same in essence with divine Father (the “nature”); nevertheless, inferably, all of these were categorically denied by Pauline opponents when preached a Jesus (peace be upon him) of different “identity” and “nature”.

No surprises that contemporary Bible giants like James Dunn assert that “earliest” Jesus (p) traditions have no hint for his divinity:

 “There is no real evidence in the earliest Jesus traditions of what could fairly be called a consciousness of divinity.” (James Dunn, Christology in the Making, p.60)

It is for such notions that professors like John Hick claim that to impute divinity upon “historical” Jesus (peace be upon him) is not merely “devoid” in sense but its gradual evolution has pagan influences:

“For to say, without explanation, that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was also God is as devoid of meaningthat Jesus was God the Son incarnate is not literally true, since it has no literal meaning, but it[s] an application to Jesus of a mythical concept whose function is analogous to that of the notion of divine sonship ascribed in ancient world to a king.” (John Hick, The Myth of God Incarnate (London: SCM Press, 1977), p. 178)

 

Interestingly all of this is expressly important for the Qur’anic assertion that original followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) were “Muslims” since as Muslims they would not recognize him as divine in any sort since. Consider the following was the express teaching of Jesus (peace be upon him):

And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. “Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, ‘worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up Thou wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things. (Qur’an 5:116-117)

They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. (Qur’an 5:72)

The forgoing could well be the reason that respected Christian sources like Compton’s Encyclopedia states that it was difficult to distinguish earliest “Christians” from Jews since the “only” difference between them was that they accepted Jesus (peace be upon him) to be “Messiah” while their Jewish counterparts did not:

“The early Christians were all Jews. They remained in Jerusalem and partook in the religious observance in the Temple. They differed from their fellow Jews ONLY in that they believed that the Messiah had come. Had they kept quiet about their conviction, they might well have remained a sect within Judaism…” (Compton’s Encyclopedia, ‘Christianity,’ (CD-ROM Home Library, 1997.)

 

So, the only difference was Messiah consciousness as opposed to divinity consciousness. And “Muslim” followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) had to recognize him as “Messiah”! (c.f. Qur’an 3:45). Now compare this with Pauline opponents at Corinth who claimed that they were “Christ”-followers, denyingfull and pure devotion to Christ” (c.f. 2 Corinthians 11:3).

Furthermore, it would be incorrect to restrict the scope of the Pauline verse to divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him) alone since, we know, Paul centered his theology on crucifixion and its redemptive capacity as well. Therefore, if Paul so staunchly complains that other “apostles” were preaching a “gospel completely different” about a completely “different” Jesus (peace be upon him) then his opponents were disparaging the importance and implications of cross! As Paul clarifies that many were rejecting crucifixion and philosophies entailed around it:

For the message about Christ’s death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved it is God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

It is interesting to note the place where Paul places the above “verse”. He wrote them just after introducing the division in the Corinthian church implying strongly that it was inside the Corinthian church where crucifixion and subsequent redemption was rejected and Paul was reproaching the same. This is further proven by the words Paul has chosen in the quoted “verse”. Note he writes that for only a particular few in the community – “for us” – the “message” about crucifixion is “power”; Paul is obviously addressing to those few who were loyal to his preaching; implying again that there were other rejecting cross and its efficacy (if any).

Contemporary New Testament authority Bart Ehrman also speculates that the author of ‘Q’ – a contemporary with Paul and firsthand source, for evangelists Matthew and Luke – denied vicarious atonement through the cross of Jesus (peace be upon him) – a philosophy which was corner stone for Paul:

The author of Q, too, may have thought that it was the sayings of Jesus that were the key to a right relationship with God. If so, in losing Q we have lost a significant alternative voice in the very earliest period of early Christianity. Most scholars date Q to the 50s of the Common Era, prior to the writing of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark was some ten or fifteen years later; Matthew and Luke some ten or fifteen years after that) and contemporary with Paul. Paul, of course, stressed the death and resurrection of Jesus as the way of salvation. Did the author of Q stress the sayings of Jesus as the way? Many people still today have trouble accepting a literal belief in Jesus’ resurrection or traditional understandings of his death as an atonement, but call themselves Christian because they try to follow Jesus’ teachings. Maybe there were early Christians who agreed with them, and maybe the author of Q was one of them. If so, the view lost out, and the document was buried. In part, it was buried in the later Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which transformed and thereby negated Q’s message by incorporating it into an account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. One more form of Christianity lost to view until rediscovered in modern times. (Lost Christianities, The Battles of Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew, p. 59)

What is still interesting is the result which these opposing apostles were receiving in Corinth for their “missionary activity”! Reconsider the following passage:

 For you gladly tolerate anyone who comes to you and preaches a different Jesus, not the one we preached; and you accept a spirit and a gospel completely different from the Spirit and the gospel you received from us!” (2 Corinthians 11: 4)

The rapid success of his opponents frustrated Paul to such an extent where he even started to act like “fools”:

I am acting like a fool – but you have made me do it. You are the ones who ought to show your approval of me. For even if I am nothing, I am in no way inferior to those very special “apostles” of yours. The many miracles and wonders that prove that I am an apostle were performed among you with much patience. (2 Corinthians 12: 11-12)

Note that, according to the above citation, it is now not people of other camp who are deserting Paul rather they are the very people about whom Paul was confident will accept him as “apostle”. It is natural that in such scenarios people would act like “fools”!

In fact, to make matters worse for Paul, these much anticipated followers of Paul were the same who even demanded proofs from Paul for his apostleship:

You will have all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me.” (2 Corinthians 13:3)

Notice, even though Paul asserted that the “miracles and wonders” he ironically “performed among [them]” (c.f. 2 Corinthians 12:12, quoted above) were the very proofs for his apostleship yet Corinthians demanded proof from him! This certainly makes sense because according to Jesus (peace be upon him) even charlatans would be able to achieve miraculous feats:

“For false Messiahs and false prophets will appear. They will perform miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s chosen people, if possible. Be on your guard! I have told you everything before the time comes.” (Mark 13: 22-23)

It is very plausible that by “proof”, Corinthians demanded a doctrine compatible with Jesus’ (peace be upon him) message and human cognizance. They could neither see Jesus’ (peace be upon him) stamp or compatibility in the Pauline preaching about his deity nor could they fathom any logic in the theories of cross and vicarious atonement there from. Not much surprise, it came to them as “foolish”.

Such embarrassing response at Corinth by his own faction led Paul emotionally appeal against his rejection:

Dear friends, in Corinth! We have spoken frankly to you; we have opened our hearts wide. It is not we who have closed our hearts to you; it is you who have closed your hearts to us. (2 Corinthians 6:11)

Due to brevity of this paper we have not documented that Paul was strongly opposed at most places he preached like Galatia, Ephesus, Antioch, and even in Jerusalem. What is very interesting to note is that the oppositions in Antioch and Jerusalem did not come from any revolting “heretical” faction but from “brother of Christ” (peace be upon him) James himself! The one thing which all of these do prove is that there were various faiths prevailing amongst the earliest communities!

 

Conclusion

 

We saw that the earliest “apostles”, as early as Paul himself, were divided over doctrines. Many apostles contemporary to Paul at Corinth came to oppose him for his most fundamental theories, like, vicarious atonement through alleged crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him) and his divinity.

This made university scholars like Dr. A. Meyer (Prof. of Theology at Zurich University) to conclude that the “Christianity” we know of was not the religion Jesus (peace be upon him) came to promulgate rather it was a complex philosophy that Paul coined:

If by ‘Christianity’  we understand faith in Jesus Christ as the heavenly son of God, who did not belong to Earthly humanity, but who lived in the divine likeness and glory, who came down  from heaven to earth, who entered humanity and took upon himself a human form through a virgin, that he might make propitiation for men’s sins by his own blood on the cross, who was them awakened  from death and raised to God as the Lord of his own people, who believe in him, who hears their prayers, guards and leads them, who shall come again to judge the world, who will cast down all the foes of God, and will bring his people with him unto the house of heavenly light so that they may become like his glorified body – if this is Christianity, the[n] such a Christianity was founded by Paul and not by Jesus.” (Meyer, Jesus or Paul, p. 122)

All of this are conducive to conclude that earliest community of “Christians” were not merely composed of “Christians”, that is, those believing in redemptive capacity of cross and divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him). And thus, subjective Christians like Shamoun, merely to falsify Qur’an, try to restrict the followership of Jesus (peace be upon him) only to those who became positively recognized in the pages of New Testament. Consider the following parochial note that he wrote:

Contrary to the Quran’s assertions, Christ’s disciples proclaimed that Jesus is the divine Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. They also testified that he sits enthroned in heaven alongside the Father as the sovereign Lord of all creation, and that he will return to the earth in order to judge the living and the dead. They even went as far as to worship Christ as their risen and exalted Lord!

Note that some (self-claimed) “disciples” of Jesus (peace be upon him) did imply his divinity in some sort and did promulgate his alleged crucifixion and entailing salvation theories. However, these were not the “only” disciples. There were others contemporary to Paul (i) who denied “full and pure devotion to Christ”, (ii) they denied the preaching of Paul which, evidently, relied heavily around the alleged crucifixion and vicarious atonement there from, yet these at the same time also (iii) claimed that they were “Christ-followers”! So next time Shamoun claims that “There is simply no way around this fact”, he needs to suggest what name other than “Muslims” could he give to these opponents of Paul? Pick one! It seems like, “There is simply no way around this fact” that original followers of Christ (peace be upon him) were “Muslims”!

Even if we allow that these Pauline opponents were not “Muslims” yet there mere presence at such odds with “orthodox” Christians (Paul, for example) is enough to open up the contention that the followership of Jesus (peace be upon him) was not only restricted to those who were labeled as “Christians”. This in itself makes the Qur’anic fact further viable that original followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) were “Muslims”! Subsequently, from a historians’ point of view, the Qur’anic assertion is not at any “historical error”.

There is still vast amount of information which has to be unearthed from New Testament about Paul and his ways which we would definitely do in future, inshAllah. For the time being since Paul asserts that everybody else opposing him were “false apostles” and, Shamoun disdains original follower of Jesus (peace be upon him) to be Muslims; therefore, in the next installment – the final installment of the series – we would turn our attention to the well-known New Testament disciples and see how much of a ‘disciple’ they were! We do have some important stuff coming up, inshAllah.

Footnote:

[1.]       At first glance, many would be tempted to interpret that the “Jews” mentioned in the verse are those traditional Jews who hated Jesus (peace be upon him); and not the Corinthian Jews who came to believe in him. However, this cannot be precisely correct in the overall context of the epistle. Consider the following issues:

Firstly, in the context of the epistle we have differing factions in the Corinthian community split over apostles for their preaching. Now notice the sarcastic tone which Paul has used in the subject passage: “foolish message”. Therefore, the first target audience for this sarcasm has to be those Corinthians who rejected Paul to accept Christ (p) himself (or some other apostle for that reason) labeling his message as “foolish”. If this was not true then Paul’s sarcasm would make no sense since the letter was not going to Jerusalem – the haven of Christ (peace be upon him) killers; it was going to a supposedly “Christian” community of Corinth.

Secondly, we know for a fact that Paul’s most fundamental preaching was the alleged crucifixion and philosophies around it! Now as Corinthian opponents rejected Paul they did not reject the “man” Paul with two eyes and one nose. They precisely rejected his preaching which has to be the alleged crucifixion and this made Paul write that the crucifixion comes as “foolish” and “offensive” to the Jews – the believing Jews of Corinth in the context; and, likewise, “nonsense” to the Gentiles. If these were not valid, it makes no sense that many Corinthian groups “rejected” Paul.

[2.]       The King James Version of the Bible renders the word “simplicity” in place of your “full and pure devotion”:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Nevertheless, it hardly makes any difference in the interpretation of the verse when we look at it like a Christian would. For this “simplicity” in Christ (peace be upon him) is the quality of him being the divine Son of God who desires pure and simple devotion to him; and the “simplicity” comes because of his alleged sacrificial death on the cross. Consider some standard expositions of this rendering:

From the simplicity that is in Christ –

 

(1) From simple and single-hearted devotedness to him – from pure and unmixed attachment to him. The fear was that their affections would be fixed on other objects, and that the singleness and unity of their devotedness to him would be destroyed.

(4) from the simplicity in worship which the Lord Jesus commended and required. The worship which the Redeemer designed to establish was simple, unostentatious, and pure – strongly in contrast with the gorgeousness and corruption of the pagan worship, and even with the imposing splendor of the Jewish temple service. (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 2 Corinthians 11:3)

And,

3. The simplicity that is in Christ] i.e. the pure gospel that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. (A Commentary on the Holy Bible Edited By J.R. Dummelow)

 

Notes:

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all Qur’anic text taken from Yusuf Ali Translation.
  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical text taken from Good News Edition.
  • Emphasize wherever not matching with original is ours.

2 comments

  • I read :-

    ” Notice that “apostles” in Corinth were teaching a “different Jesus” and a “gospel completely different”. This gospel preaching about Jesus (peace be upon him) was so fundamentally different from Paul that he had premonitions that people might abandon “full” and “pure” “devotion” to Christ (peace be upon him).”

    I agree that a preaching different to what Paul used to preach was there. However, to say its ” SO FUNDAMENTALLY ” different cannot be correct for Christ’s half brother, James who was the leader of the Church at Jerusalem acknowledged Paul as an apostle :-

    ” When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

    When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

    The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.” Acts of Apostles (21:17-26); NIV

    The only difference was this that Paul taught the Mosaic law to be fulfilled by Christ therefore no longer to be observed whereas the rest were keeping the law.

    But Paul never ever spoke of law to be bad (Romans 7:7-12) and that is why in order to demonstrate his reverence for the law, he had to pay for those nazarites . Probable it may be that a few of Messianic Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah in Jerusalem were only seeing Him as a prophet only but James accepted Him as divine for if that were not the case, we could not have seen such an account of James and company’s approval of Paul as an apostle.

    In fact James like Paul preached liberty from the law of Moses :-

    ” But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James (1:25); NIV (James)

    ” It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians (5:1); NIV (Paul).

  • Thank you Mr. James for your notes.

    I am the author of this paper and I welcome your comments in it. I have read your comments, however, could we start by revisiting the Jamesian verse you quoted. Could I request you re-read James 1:25 since it does not imply “James like Paul preached liberty from the law of Moses”

    Sincerely,
    Q.M.

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