Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Addressing Paul Williams’ False Accusations Pt. 4

Sam Shamoun

We continue our reply to Williams’ assertions.

Williams claims that Matthew was embarrassed by the way Mark narrated the story of the young man Jesus, and so decided to change some of the dialogue between them. Hence, instead of the rich man calling Jesus “Good master,” Matthew has him asking him about what good thing he must do that he may obtain eternal life. And instead of Jesus responding by asking the man why does he call him good, Matthew changes it to Jesus asking him about why is he asking about what is good.

Here it is so that the readers can see it for themselves:

“And someone came to Him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?’ And He said to him, ‘Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’” Matthew 19:16-17

If Matthew changed the story because he was embarrassed by it then he really didn’t do a very good job since he still has Jesus exclaiming that only God is good! Moreover, why even bother reporting this pericope if it was such an embarrassment? Why not simply omit it altogether? After all, there are other stories in Mark which Matthew does not include, so why include this one if it was such an embarrassment? Better yet, why not simply omit that part of the story and have the rich man come up to Jesus inquiring about eternal life without the exchange about being good?

It is obvious what Matthew is doing here. He has chosen to focus on the man’s request concerning the good things that God requires of him in order to merit eternal life, since that is basically the whole point of the pericope. As such, Matthew hasn’t changed anything, or twisted anything, but has simply chosen to focus on that particular aspect of the young man’s question and Jesus’ reply which he felt was pertinent to the discussion.

Therefore, the burden of proof is upon Williams to show that the rich man did not also ask about what GOOD things he must do and that Jesus didn’t also respond by asking the man why is he even asking Christ about what is good.

And since Williams has a problem with the Gospel writers summarizing the words and deeds of Christ differently from one another, we invite him to read the articles and rebuttals which we listed in our response to him where we present plenty of examples from the Quran showing that Allah was unable to retell the same exact story with the same exact wording or detail. We really would like Williams to explain to us why his god, who is supposed to be omniscient, couldn’t narrate the same story in the same exact way, but chose to retell these tales differently and often with contradictory wording. We would also like to know why does he still remain a Muslim when his own scriptures suffer from the exact same “problems” which caused him to doubt the historical veracity of the NT writings.

Williams then tries to again pit Paul against the Lord Jesus by asserting that this blessed Apostle taught a different message of salvation than Christ did. I.e., Jesus taught that salvations comes from observing the Torah and giving to the poor whereas Paul taught that the Torah has been abolished since salvation comes by confessing that Jesus is Lord. Williams even alludes to Matthew to prove his assertion that Jesus commanded his followers to follow the Torah! (Cf. Matthew 5:17-20).

This, again, demonstrates that Williams hasn’t really taken the time to study the Gospels and Paul’s Epistles with any depth.

In the first place, had Williams had bothered to read the entire context of Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5 he would have discovered that Christ wasn’t exhorting his followers to observe the Torah. Rather, Jesus was commanding his disciples to implement his interpretation and application of the teachings that are found throughout the Law and the Prophets. This is why Jesus could quote what the Scriptures teach and then follow that up with, “But I say to you…” (Cf. Matthew 5: 21-48).

Scholars have noted that the manner in which Jesus speaks throughout Matthew 5-7 actually demonstrates that Christ was fully aware that he possessed an authority which belonged to God alone. Noted Christian apologist and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig explains:

“… The typical rabbinical style of teaching was to quote extensively from learned teachers, who provided the basis of authority for one's own teaching. But Jesus did exactly the opposite. He began, ‘You have heard that it was said the men of old…’ and quoted the Mosaic Law; then he continued, ‘But I say to you…’ and gave his own teaching. Jesus thus equated his own authority with that of the divinely given Torah. It's no wonder that Matthew comments, ‘When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one who had authority, and not as their scribes’ (Matt 7:28-29).

“But it’s not just that Jesus placed his personal authority on a par with that of the divine Law. More than that, he adjusted the Law on his own authority. Although Jewish scholars have attempted valiantly to assimilate Jesus' ethical teachings to the tradition of Judaism, Jesus’ opposition of his own personal authority to the divine Torah given through Moses is the rock upon which all such attempts are finally broken. Take, for example, Jesus' teaching on divorce in Matt 5:31-32 (cf. Mark 10:2-12). Here Jesus explicitly quotes the teaching of the Law (Deut 24:1-4) and opposes to it, on the basis of his own authority, his teaching on the matter. In the Markan passage, he declares that Moses does not represent the perfect will of God on this matter and presumes to correct the Law on his own authority as to what really is the will of God. But no human being, no prophet or teacher or charismatic, has that kind of authority. ‘Jesus,’ observes Witherington, ‘seems to assume an authority over the Torah that no Pharisee or Old Testament prophet assumed the authority to set it aside.’

“In his provocative dialogue A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, the eminent Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner explains that it is precisely on this basis why he, as a Jew, would not have followed Jesus had he lived in first-century Palestine. Explaining that for a Jew the Torah is God's revelation to Moses, he asserts,

Jews believe in the Torah of Moses ... and that belief requires faithful Jews to enter a dissent at the teachings of Jesus, on the grounds that those teachings at important points contradict the Torah…

And therefore, because that specific teaching was so broadly out of phase with the Torah and the covenant at Sinai, I could not then follow him and do not now either. That is not because I am stubborn or unbelieving. It is because I believe God has given a different Torah from the one that Jesus teaches; and that Torah, the one Moses got at Sinai, stands in judgment of the torah of Jesus, as it dictates true and false for all other torahs that people want to teach in God's name.

“Given the supremely authoritative status of the divinely revealed Torah Jesus' teaching can only appear presumptuous and even blasphemous. In effect, as Robert Hutchinson put it, ‘Neusner wants to ask Jesus, "Who do you think you are — God?"’ Neusner himself recognizes that ‘no one can encounter Matthew's Jesus WITHOUT CONCURRING THAT BEFORE US IN THE EVANGELIST'S MIND IS GOD INCARNATE.’ But if Jesus' opposition of his personal teaching to the Torah is an authentic facet of the historical Jesus — AS EVEN THE SKEPTICAL SCHOLARS OF THE JESUS SEMINAR CONCEDE — then it seems that Jesus did arrogate to himself the authority of God. According to Robert Guelich, ‘one must not shy away from the startling antithesis between God has said to those of old / But I say to you since here lies not only the key to the antithesis but to Jesus' ministry.’" (Craig, Reasonable Faith - Christian Truth and Apologetics [Moody Press, Chicago 1984; revised edition 1994], pp. 246-247; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And here is what Craig says regarding Jesus’ use of the Amen formula:

“Second, Jesus' use of ‘amen’ expresses his authority. The expression frequently attributed to Jesus, ‘Truly, truly I say to you,’ is historically unique and is recognized on all hands to have been used by Jesus to preface his teaching … Ben Witherington in his acclaimed study of the Christology of Jesus explains the significance of Jesus' use of the phrase ‘Amen, I say to you’:

It is insufficient to compare it to ‘thus says the Lord,’ although that is the closest parallel. Jesus is not merely speaking for Yahweh, but for himself and on his own authority… This strongly suggests that he considered himself to be a person of authority above and beyond what prophets claimed to be. He could attest to his own truthfulness and speak on his own behalf, and yet his words were to be taken as having the same or greater authority than the divine words of the prophet. Here was someone who thought he possessed not only divine inspiration… but also divine authority and the power of direct divine utterance. The use of amen followed by ‘I say unto you’; must be given its full weight in light of its context — early Judaism.

That Witherington’s analysis is correct is evident from the complaint of the orthodox Jewish writer Ahad ha’ Am: ‘Israel cannot accept with religious enthusiasm, as the Word of God, the utterances of a man who speak in his own name — not “thus saith the Lord,” but “I say unto you.” This “I” is in itself sufficient to drive Judaism away from the Gentiles forever.’” (Ibid., p. 248; bold emphasis ours)

Craig concludes with the words of Horst Georg Pöhlmann:

“Horst Georg Pöhlmann in his Abriss der Dogmatik reports, ‘In summary, one could say that today there is virtually a consensus concerning that wherein the historical in Jesus is to be seen. It consists in the fact that Jesus came on the scene with an unheard of authority, namely with the authority of God, with the claim of the authority to stand in God's place and speak to us and bring us to salvation.’ This involves, says Pöhlmann, an implicit Christology. He concludes:

This unheard of claim to authority, as it comes to expression in the antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount, for example, is implicit Christology, since it presupposes a unity of Jesus with God that is deeper than that of all men, namely a unity of essence. This … claim to authority is explicable only from the side of his deity. This authority only God himself can claim. With regard to Jesus there are only two possible modes of behavior: either believe that in him God encounters us or nail him to the cross as a blasphemer. Tertium non datur.

There is no third way.” (Ibid., p. 252; bold emphasis ours)

Jewish author Alfred J. Kolatch concurs with Craig. Kolatch explains why most Jews are unwilling to embrace Jesus as a prophet:

“This thesis is rejected because none of the prophets of Israel spoke in his own name; none ever presented himself as the originator of his own prophecies. The Jewish prophets considered themselves the mouthpiece of God. God, they believed, was speaking through them. For this reason, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the other Hebrew prophets introduce their prophecies and admonitions with the words, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’

“When Jesus introduces his prophecies and admonitions, he does so with the words, ‘I say unto you,’ clearly suggesting that he saw himself as the authority. This attitude is reflected in many New Testament passages. In Matthew (9:6), for example, Jesus represents himself as ‘the Son of Man who has power on earth to forgive sins.’ In John (13:13), Jesus says, ‘Ye call me “Master” and “Lord”; and ye say well; for so I am.’ Since Jesus portrayed himself as more than a spokesman of the Lord, Jews are unable to accept him as a prophet.” (Kolatch, The Second Jewish Book of Why [Jonathan David Publishers, Inc., Middle Village NY, 2000; ISBN: 0-8246-0305-2], p. 72; bold emphasis ours)

The Quran itself testifies that Jesus was sent to loosen some of the commands of the Torah:

And I have come confirming the Torah which is between my hands (Wa musaddiqan lima bayna yadayya mina al-tawrati), and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. So fear Allah and obey me. S. 3:50

Here is how the following Muslim scholars interpreted this text:

Likewise, I have come to you, confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful for you some of that which was forbidden to you, IN IT. Thus he made lawful for them fish and birds which had no spikes; it is also said that he made it all lawful for them, so that ba‘d, ‘some’, means, kull, ‘all’). I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, He has repeated it for emphasis and to expand upon it: so fear God, and obey me, in what I command you of affirming God’s Oneness and being obedient to Him. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Therefore, if Williams is right about the historical Jesus binding his followers to the Torah then this only further proves that Muhammad was a false prophet since he taught that Jesus actually came to cancel out some of its rulings!

Secondly, contrary to Williams’ assertion, the teachings of both Jesus and Paul are in perfect agreement. For instance, Jesus, like Paul, taught that he is the sovereign Lord who rules from God’s heavenly throne:

“And Jesus began to say, as He taught in the temple, ‘How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself said in the Holy Spirit, “THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, ‘SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET.’” David himself calls Him “Lord”; so in what sense is He his son?’ And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him.” Mark 12:35-37

“… Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.’” Mark 14:61b-62 – cf. Acts 2:24-36

In fact, Jesus was confessed to be the Lord from his human conception!

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of MY LORD would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.’” Luke 1:41-44

But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ THE LORD.’” Luke 2:10-11

Jesus, like Paul, also proclaimed that people must confess him as Lord and prove the sincerity of their confession by obeying HIS commands, not Moses’ instructions:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of MY Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Therefore everyone who hears THESE WORDS OF MINE AND ACTS ON THEM, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears THESE WORDS OF MINE AND DOES NOT ACT ON THEM, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall. When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them AS ONE HAVING AUTHORITY, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:21-27

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ AND DO NOT DO WHAT I SAY? Everyone who comes to Me and hears MY WORDS AND ACTS ON THEM, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus, like Paul, further stated that the eternal fate of every individual was in his hands and that the destiny of all mankind depended upon how they respond to Christ:

“Therefore everyone who CONFESSES ME before men, I will also confess him before MY Father who is in heaven. But whoever DENIES ME before men, I will also deny him before MY Father who is in heaven… He who loves father or mother MORE THAN ME is not worthy of ME; and he who loves son or daughter MORE THAN ME is not worthy of ME. And he who does not take his cross and follow AFTER ME is not worthy of ME. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for MY SAKE will find it.” Matthew 10:32-33, 37-39 – cf. Luke 14:25-33

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after ME, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow ME. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for MY SAKE will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of HIS Father with HIS angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.’” Matthew 16:24-27 – cf. Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26

“But when the Son of Man comes in HIS glory, and all the angels with HIM, then HE will sit on HIS glorious throne. ALL THE NATIONS will be gathered before HIM; and HE will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and HE will put the sheep on HIS right, and the goats on the left. Then THE KING will say to those on HIS right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of MY Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave ME something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave ME something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited ME in; naked, and you clothed ME; I was sick, and you visited ME; I was in prison, and you came to ME.’ Then the righteous will answer HIM, ‘LORD, when did we see YOU hungry, and feed YOU, or thirsty, and give YOU something to drink? And when did we see YOU a stranger, and invite YOU in, or naked, and clothe YOU? When did we see YOU sick, or in prison, and come to YOU?’ THE KING will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers OF MINE, even the least of them, you did it TO ME.’ Then HE will also say to those on HIS left, “Depart from ME, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave ME nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave ME nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite ME in; naked, and you did not clothe ME; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit ME.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘LORD, when did we see YOU hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of YOU?’ Then HE will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it TO ME.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

And like Paul, Jesus even taught that salvation and forgiveness of sins come through his vicarious death and by believing in his name:

“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 – cf. Mark 10:45

“While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:26-28 – cf. Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20

“Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed IN HIS NAME to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” Luke 24:44-47 – Acts 2:37-38; 3:13-16; 4:5-12; 10:43; 15:9-11; 26:18

What makes Jesus’ statements here rather remarkable is that the prophetic Scriptures testify that salvation and forgiveness of sins come from believing in the name of Yahweh!

FOR YOUR NAME’S SAKE, O LORD, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.” Psalm 25:11

Save me, O God, BY YOUR NAME, And vindicate me by Your power.” Psalm 54:1

“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins FOR YOUR NAME’S SAKE.” Psalm 79:9

Thus, all of the evidence conclusively proves that Paul was in perfect agreement with the Lord Jesus and the rest of the beloved Apostles concerning such essential doctrines as sin, salvation and God. It is Williams’ false prophet Muhammad who contradicted the teachings of Christ and his disciples, thereby deceiving mankind into thinking that Islam is the religion of Jesus.

Ironically, Williams chooses to believe the words of a man (Muhammad) who came approximately 600 years after Christ and who never even met Jesus or his followers, while rejecting the teachings of an Apostle (Paul) who not only saw the risen Lord of glory, but also met with the very eyewitnesses of Jesus who confirmed his legitimacy as a follower of Christ (cf. Acts 15; 1 Corinthians 9:1-5; 15:1-10; Galatians 1:15-19; 2:1-10).

What makes this even more ironic is that some of Islam’s earliest and greatest scholars also confirmed that Paul was a true Christian whom God used to spread the true teachings of Jesus! For the sake of brevity we will limit ourselves to one of these witnesses:

“Yazid b. Abu Habib al-Misrl told me that he found a document in which was a memorandum (T. the names) of those the apostle sent to the countries and kings of the Arabs and non-Arabs and what he said to his companions when he sent them. I sent it to Muhammad b. Shihab al-Zuhri (T. with a trusty countryman of his) and he recognized it. It contained the statement that the apostle went out to his companions and said: ‘God has sent me (Muhammad) to all men, so take a message from me, God have mercy on you. Do not hang back from me as the disciples hung back from Jesus son of Mary. They asked how they hung back and he said, ‘He called them to a task similar to that which I have called you. Those who had to go a short journey were pleased and accepted. Those who had a long journey before them were displeased and refused to go, and Jesus complained of them to God. (T. From that very night) every one of them was able to speak the language of the people to whom he was sent.' (T. Jesus said, ‘This is a thing that God has determined that you should do, so go.’

“Those whom Jesus son of Mary sent, both disciples and those who came after them, in the land were: Peter the disciple AND PAUL WITH HIM, (PAUL BELONGED TO THE FOLLOWERS AND WAS NOT A DISCIPLE) to Rome. Andrew and Matthew to the land of the cannibals; Thomas to the land of Babel, which is in the land of the east; Philip to Carthage and Africa; John to Ephesus the city of the young men of the cave; James to Jerusalem which is Aelia the city of the sanctuary; Bartholomew to Arabia which is the land of Hijaz; Simon to the land of Berbers; Judah who was not one of the disciples was put in place of Judas" (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], p. 653; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Hence, whereas there is plenty of evidence supporting Paul, there is no solid proof for Muhammad being a true prophet. All of the data conclusively establishes that Muhammad was a false prophet and one of the antichrists that the Holy Bible warned us of (cf. Matthew 7:15-20; 24:23-25; 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, 13-15; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 John 2:18, 22-23; 2 John 1:7-11).

For more on these issues we recommend the following articles and rebuttals:

We still have more to say in the next part.