The Problem with the Islamic View of Paul (Qureshi)

Nabeel Qureshi’s soon-to-be released book, No God But One: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity, has an excellent section where Qureshi discusses the relationships between Paul and Christianity, Paul and Jesus, and Paul and the apostles.  Many critics of the NT – including Muslim scholars – say that Paul was the founder of Christianity, that Paul was deceptive, that Paul hijacked the church, that Paul made up things about Jesus, and so forth.  Here’s the helpful summary of Qureshi’s chapter on this topic:

“The common Muslim view of Paul has significant problems even when considered from an Islamic perspective.  First, what happened to the disciples?  How were they so easily overcome by Paul that either they were convinced by his trickery and followed him, or their voices were completely drowned out and there is no record of their dissent?  Was this outsider that much more powerful than Jesus that he was able to undo all of Jesus’ work and teachings?  As a Muslim, I never provided a model as to how this might have occurred, and I have never heard one after leaving Islam.”

“The problem becomes sharper when we revisit one of the Quranic verses that makes a promise to Jesus: ‘Indeed, I will cleanse you (Jesus) from those who disbelieve, and I will make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieve, until the day of resurrection’ (3.55).  Allah promises to make the disciples superior to the disbelievers, and Jesus would be made free from such disbelievers.  The Muslim view of Paul, that he overcame the disciples and hijacked Jesus’ message, seems to ignore the Quran’s promise to the disciples.”

“It would be helpful if the Quran had something to say about Paul, but it says absolutely nothing, never so much as mentioning his name.  Given the pivotal role Muslims often think Paul had in corrupting Christianity, the silence is deafening.  Why does the Quran not mention him?  Is it on account of the Quran’s omission that Muslims in the early and classical periods of Islam, such as Tabari and Qurtubi, saw Paul as a follower of Jesus?”

“In US criminal law, as in other places around the world, three aspects of a crime must be established before a suspect can be found guilty: a means, a motive, and an opportunity.  The Islamic view that Paul hijacked Christianity fails to secure any of these three.  Paul could not have had the means because Allah promised to make the disciples insuperable; there is no viable motive for Paul to deceive the church as his efforts earned him only persecution and a death sentence; and there is no model suggested that clarifies how Paul might have had an opportunity to overcome all the disciples and hijack the church.  Of course, not only should Paul be considered innocent until proven guilty, but so far as this investigation is concerned, there simply is no evidence to convict him.  Case closed.

Nabeel Qureshi, No God But One (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, forthcoming), p. 205-6.

Shane Lems

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