Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Historical Case for Paul’s Apostleship: And a Critique of Muslim Arguments

By Keith Thompson
Section 1. Positive Historical Case for Paul’s Apostleship
Section 2. Critiquing the Muslim Misuse of the Ebionites
Section 3. Early Muslim Sources Affirming the Apostleship of Paul

Many Muslim critics assert that the Apostle Paul was not a true Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. They erroneously argue that Paul came in after the real Apostles and took over the scene corrupting Christianity with new foreign teachings. Many Muslims assert that the original message of Jesus and his true followers, their supposed Islamic teaching, was in complete disagreement with Paul’s “new” theology. In contrast to this modern Islamic view the Christian position is that history demonstrates Paul was truly converted to Christianity. Christians argue that the evidence shows he was accepted by the original Apostles and by the earliest Christians as a genuine convert with sound theology who was given an important mission from Christ himself.

In this article I will weigh the evidence that both sides offer. When investigating historical issues it is important to use a reliable method to come to truth. I will be appealing to what is known as the historical method in this article as I argue that there are many strong reasons to affirm Paul’s apostleship and no strong reasons to deny Paul’s apostleship. I will utilize historical principles including the concept of multiple independent attestation, early accounts (i.e., the oldest source material), eyewitness testimony, disinterest statements, and the criterion of embarrassment. It is also important to speak to the lack of early reliable evidence for the modern Muslim view concerning Paul. Lastly I will demonstrate that the modern Islamic polemic against Paul is not consistent with many early Muslim traditions which affirm that Paul was in fact viewed as a true Apostle. I believe that Muslims are forced to reject Paul and blame him in trying to explain why their Quran affirms Christian Scriptures(1) and yet teaches that Christianity has false teachings. To the Muslim Paul corrupting Christianity serves as reconciliation to this problem. However, we will see that their rejection of Paul and their accusations are completely erroneous. 

Section 1. Positive Historical Case for Paul’s Apostleship 

When historians use the historical method they will consult the earliest sources regarding the historical issue in question. The earliest sources pertaining to Paul are the 1st century documents that were canonized into the Bible in the 4th century. The Bible is not one source - it is a compiled collection of many separate documents written over a span of about 1400 years. The 1st century texts that were canonized into the New Testament have much to say concerning the Apostle Paul and are thus very important to our study. Some Muslims may object and assert that one can not use the Bible to prove Paul. However, such a surface level objection is based on ignorance since, again, the New Testament is a collection of valuable early historical documents, many of which speak directly to this issue. To discard the 1st century documents that are in the Bible and not include them in our study would be to neglect the earliest sources we have concerning this issue. That method would essentially be to irresponsibly throw away important data, which no serious historian or researcher would ever do. If historical sources don’t count then we can’t know anything about history.

1st Century Biblical Sources

With respect to the 1st century Biblical evidence concerning Paul we have Paul’s writings (Romans; 1 & 2 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; 1 & 2 Thessalonians; 1 & 2 Timothy; Titus; and Philemon), the history of the 1st century church known as “Acts” or “Acts of the Apostles,” and a Christian epistle known as 2 Peter. So, with respect to 1st century Biblical writings we have Paul’s epistles as well as two other independent documents to work with. All of the 1st century Biblical sources that mention Paul affirm that Paul was a genuine Apostle. None of them question that.

All through out the book of Acts we see Paul identified as a true Apostle. And so we could quote numerous passages affirming this from Acts. However, one striking feature is that in the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council Paul played a leading role with the other Apostles such as James and Peter in answering the question about Gentiles being under the law. As the council was in session we see the following:
And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:12).
Paul and Barnabas spoke after Peter (vv. 7-11) and right before James (vv. 13-21) who concluded the council and gave the final decision that Gentiles are not under the law. This demonstrates that there was 1st century recognition of Paul’s acceptance by the early church and by the Apostles themselves as an authoritative voice.

The book 2 Peter is rejected by many liberal scholars and Muslims but there is a strong case for its authority and for Petrine authorship.(2) This text is another 1st century source that not only affirms that Paul was a true Apostle, but it also identifies Paul’s writings as Scripture:
"15And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:15-16).
The best case scenario is that Peter wrote this and is accepting Paul. I believe this is the case. The worst case scenario is that this is another independent 1st century attestation affirming the reliability of Paul which we can add to the list. Even if it were not from Peter, it is still an early attestation which was accepted by the church and even added to the Canon of Scripture. Historians look for the earliest 1st century writings when it comes to Jesus and early Christianity. That there are no early 1st century writings asserting that Paul was a false Apostle discredits the Muslim position severely. The historical principles of early sources and multiple independent attestation is thus met with respect to 1st century Biblical evidence for Paul.
If Paul was a true Apostle we would expect his own letters to confirm that this was so. It must be asked: is there anything in Paul’s writings that historians would accept as proving that he was genuine? There are many things to consider. For example it is important to consider the principle of embarrassment which is the principle that something or someone is more likely to be authentic if there are embarrassing themes that you wouldn’t expect to be openly talked about. We see that Paul was quite open about his shortcomings, disputes with other Apostles, and his flaws. Such things persuade historians of Paul’s integrity and honesty, and thus his claims to apostleship gain credibility.

Paul was open about his humanity and imperfection
"8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- 10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." (Philippians 3:8-12)

"12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." (1 Timothy 1:12-16)

"7So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
This information meets the principle of embarrassment which historians look for. Christ and the Apostles had a very high view of holiness or sanctification(3) and so therefore we wouldn’t expect Paul to admit his imperfection and need for grace if he was an imposter trying to usurp or lead people away from the moral teachers Jesus and the Apostles. It is a human tendency to want to appear morally good in religious settings. This is especially true of those times. Although Paul was a sanctified model for morality and exhorted others to be moral, he was honest in admitting that he, like everyone else except Christ, was not perfect and that he, like everyone else, relied on God’s grace in his life. We know from history that later untrustworthy people who claimed to follow Christ, such as Pelagius, dishonestly claimed to be completely morally perfect(4). One would naturally expect something like this from Paul if he was trying to usurp Jesus and the Apostles who taught holiness and sanctification. But Paul, being genuine, admitted his imperfection, as did the other Prophets and Apostles either explicitly or implicitly(5), and taught that one ought to strive for holiness in light of being imperfect. In being honest about his imperfection and his reliance on God’s grace Paul was in fact doing the right thing according to Jesus’ teachings on salvation.(6) Hence, this kind of material demonstrates that Paul was genuine since if he was not then there would be no reason to include these types of admissions in his epistles – admissions that critics may twist or use against Paul.

Paul recorded his rebuke of Peter

One thing you would not want to do if all you were was a false Apostle pretending to be a true Apostle is invent a story where you rebuke a major influential Apostle in front of others for not handling the Gospel accurately. However, this actually happened. Paul did just that to the Apostle Peter demonstrating that Paul genuinely cared about the Gospel and would not compromise it for anyone, including major Apostles he worked with who stepped out of line:
11But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?" 15We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:11-16)
Although Peter learned from this mistake and would go on to grow in grace, remain close with Paul, and eventually die as a martyr in Rome where Paul was also martyred, proving that Peter was a genuine appointed leader of the early church(7), this information tells us a lot about the integrity and reliability of Paul. One would not expect Paul to report that he publically rebuked a fellow worker and major Apostle if in fact he was some usurper trying fit in. You would expect him to want to avoid any unnecessary controversies or quarrels. This meets the principle of embarrassment.

Disinterested Comment about James

We can know Paul was a reliable true Apostle because of his disinterested comment about the Apostle James in Galatians 1:19:
18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother.” (Galatians 1:18-19)
Notice the disinterested off the cuff remark from Paul about James. The point is if Paul was a false Apostle inventing stories we would not expect him to just mention James in passing without making a point. The fact that Paul merely mentions James in this off the cuff way persuades historians that Paul is trustworthy showing that he wasn’t out to merely prove he was an Apostle with fanciful detailed stories, but that he was actually recalling real events about his association with the early church and Apostles.

Paul’s Gospel in the 1 Corinthians 15 Apostles Creed is the original Gospel

We can know Paul was a genuine Apostle preaching the original Gospel because his 1 Corinthians 15 Creed, which he received very early from the Apostles (Peter and James), is dated very closely to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion by scholarship which shows that Paul’s message was not some later innovation. The creed states:
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Here Paul reminds the Corinthian church that this Gospel message or creed which he previously preached to them orally was first given to him. It is important to note that Paul mentions that he received this creed before giving it to them. The 1st century evidence demonstrates that Paul received this creed from Peter and James around A.D. 35 in Jerusalem. This demonstrates that Paul’s Gospel (Jesus’ sacrifice for sins, the resurrection and appearances) was not some later corruption but that it goes right back to the beginning – coming from the original Apostles who walked with Jesus. I will demonstrate this by constructing a timeline based on the early data.

First, scholars put Jesus’ crucifixion at about A.D. 30. After surveying the historical literature Dr. Ben Witherington III affirms:
“… it makes sense to conclude that Jesus died on Nisan 14 (April 7) in A.D. 30.”(8)
In his work on the resurrection Dr. Mike Licona notes that A.D. 30 is the standard dating of Jesus’ death among scholars.(9) With that said Paul’s conversion to Christianity is dated 1-2 years after Jesus’ death by scholars. Dr. Craig L. Blomberg puts Paul’s conversion at A.D. 32 – two years after Jesus’ death.(10) One of the leading scholars on the subject is Dr. Gary Habermas and he notes that scholars usually place Paul’s conversion 1-2 years after the cross and goes with A.D. 32. He states:
“… Paul’s conversion is usually placed at one or two years later, so let’s just say two – that’s 32.”(11)
The 1st century documentation shows that after Paul’s conversion around A.D. 32, where he saw Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus, he then went to Arabia and after three years he went to Jerusalem to see Peter and James:
15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother.” (Galatians 1:15-19)
With respect to this material Dr. Howard Clark Kee notes that it “can be critically examined...just as one would evaluate evidence in a modern court or academic setting.”(12) Therefore, when one does so you see that the information harmonizes into a consistent stream in that you are left with a clear picture about where this creed comes from. Galatians 1:15-19 shows that in A.D. 32 Paul was in Arabia for three years until A.D. 35 and then he went to Jerusalem. Paul went to Jerusalem in A.D. 35 to meet with Peter and James – five years after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In Galatians 1:18 it says something extremely noteworthy with respect to Paul’s fifteen day Jerusalem stay in A.D. 35. Its says “I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas [Peter] and remained with him for fifteen days.” The word for “visit” there is actually a bad translation. The Greek word there is historeō where we get our English word “history.” According to the standard Lexical work of today, the Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker Greek-English Lexicon, [2000], p. 483 the Greek word historeō means to to get information from.” It means to gain an account. Therefore, this 1st century data shows that in A.D. 35 Paul met with Peter in Jerusalem to inquire about the Gospel or gain a historical account of the Gospel and confirm that what he had previously received from the Lord through Revelation (Gal. 1:11-12) was the true account of the Gospel preached by the original Apostles. That at this time Paul received the 1 Corinthians 15 creed from Peter and James is the position of the majority of scholars – the creed which talks about Jesus dying for our sins and rising from the dead. In the verses just preceding the actual creed in 1 Corinthians 15 (15:1-3) we see technical rabbinic terms denoting the passing of previously received oral tradition which many scholars argue is in reference to Peter transmitting this creed to Paul in A.D. 35 – words like “delivered” or “handed on” (paradidōmi) and “received (paralambanō) – the latter term being in reference to Paul receiving this creed from Peter and James in Jerusalem.

It makes perfectly logical sense, along with the fact that Paul says he went to gain a historical account from Peter, that in his fifteen days in Jerusalem with Peter and James he received (paralambanō) this early creed. It is illogical to think that Paul would not be discussing such important issues with Peter and James after his dramatic experiences. Of course Paul would want to confirm the Gospel with Peter and James, gaining a historical account of the Gospel from them, to see if it lined up with what he had come to believe in the three years prior. This I feel, along with the majority of scholars who have written on the subject, is the best explanation, among a few, as to where Paul got his transmitted 1 Corinthians 15 creed.(13)

If Paul received this creed from Peter in A.D. 35 then Paul’s Gospel is traced back right to the beginning. This would mean Paul’s message is not some later innovation or novelty but is instead traced back to those who walked and talked with Jesus, the Apostles. This utterly refutes the modern Muslim claim that Paul came in later and corrupted Christianity with a new Gospel. Moreover, there is no 1st century evidence questioning this event with Peter and James or casting doubt on it. Scholars have much to say concerning this creed, its reliability, and its date in light of Paul receiving it very early.

The British Biblical scholar Michael Goulder states that the 1 Corinthians 15 creed “goes back at least to what Paul taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.”(14) Professor Ulrich Wilkins states that this material, indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of prim­itive Christianity.”(15) The scholar Walter Kasper contends that this creed was circulating by the end of A.D. 30.(16) The notable atheist New Testament critic Gerd Lüdemann states:
“… the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion…not later than three years after the death of Jesus.”(17)
Liberal scholar James D.G. Dunn states:
This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as a tradition within months of Jesus’ death.”(18)
Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz state:
The analysis of the formula tradition about the resurrection of Jesus allows the following conclusion: a tradition in 1 Cor 15.3b-5, which goes back very close to the events themselves, attests appearances to both individuals and groups. The credibility of this tradition is enhanced, because it is in part confirmed by the narrative tradition, which is independent, and because in the case of Paul we have the personal testimony of an eye-witness who knew many of the other witnesses.”(19)
Reginald Fuller states:
It is almost universally agreed today that Paul is here citing tradition.”(20)
The eminent scholar F.F. Bruce also argues that Paul received this creed from Peter and James in A.D. 35:
In that list two individuals are mentioned by name as having seen the risen Christ, and two only: ‘he appeared Cephas’ and ‘he appeared to James’ (1 Corinthians 15:5, 7). It is no mere coincidence that there should be the only two apostles whom Paul claims to have seen during his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion [in Gal 1:19]… It was almost certainly during these fifteen days in Jerusalem that Paul received this outline.”(21)
In his 1999 work, The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds of Jesus, p. 466, the radical liberal Jesus Seminar co-founder Dr. Robert Funk states that the 1 Corinthians 15 creed was formulated within “two or three years at most.” Two or three years after Jesus’ crucifixion, that is.

Therefore scholarship is quite clear on the 1 Corinthians 15 creed being extremely early tradition formulated close to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. This utterly refutes the concept of “Pauline Christianity” and demonstrates that Paul’s Gospel and theology (Jesus dying for sins and raising from the dead) is the original early apostolic Gospel according to the 1st century data.

The Original Apostles confirmed Paul’s Gospel and Apostleship

The 1st century historical documentation on this issue also shows that fourteen years after the Jerusalem affair with Peter and James in Galatians 1:15-19 Paul then went back to Jerusalem again with Barnabas and Titus. According to the 1st century data Paul says the pillars of the church (James, Peter and John) “added nothing to me” (Gal. 2:6). This means that the original Apostles of Jesus added no correction to Paul’s Gospel message which he was preaching after the Jerusalem affair in A.D. 35. Hence, the original Apostles affirmed what Paul was preaching – namely Jesus’ crucifixion as a sacrifice for sins and His resurrection as orthodox theology. Moreover, James, Peter and John all extended their right hand of fellowship to Paul after seeing Paul’s grace (Gal. 2:9). This extremely early data (A.D. 49-54) is a severe blow to the anti-Pauline crowd since it adds one more attestation to the conclusive 1st century case for Paul’s reliability and apostleship. It must be stressed over and over, because it is important, that there is no clear 1st century documentation to the contrary asserting that Paul was not a true Apostle who was close to the original Apostles or that he had a false message. With respect to scholarship’s view on this issue the secular historian William Durant states:
No one has questioned the existence of Paul, or his repeated meetings with Peter, James, and John; and Paul enviously admits that these men had known Christ in his flesh.”(22)
Early Extra-Biblical Sources Affirming Paul’s Apostleship

Now that we have covered some of the Biblical data that validates Paul’s apostleship I want to consider the early historical evidence outside of the Bible which affirms Paul as a genuine Apostle. An important and often overlooked consideration to observe in this study has to do with expectations. If Paul was in fact genuine, as I contend, we would expect to find extremely early church writers affirming the apostleship of Paul as well as quoting his epistles as being authoritative, on same level as Scripture, or directly as Scripture. This is precisely what we find as the evidence is examined. If Paul was not a true Apostle then we would not expect to find numerous instances of the earliest extra-biblical writers (who were often students of the original Apostles) affirming Paul’s apostleship and viewing his writings as Scripture. If Paul was not a true Apostle, but was instead a false usurper, we would expect at least some evidence from the 1st century followers of Jesus and the Apostles to state their case in opposition Paul relegating him to the status of imposter. However, the earliest evidence is conclusive in affirming Paul’s reliability.

Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 35-110)

Ignatius of Antioch was a 1st century pupil of the original Apostles.(23) This is important because if Paul was a false teacher and usurper, Ignatius, being a follower of the Apostles and their Gospel (he often quoted the Gospels of Matthew and John as well), would have pointed out Paul’s supposed theological errors or commented on Paul being a supposed false Apostle. However, this 1st century martyr Bishop offers early data in support of Paul’s association with the other Apostles as well as Paul’s rightful authority in the church. Ignatius wrote the following in A.D. 110 to the Christians in Rome:
I do not command you, as Peter and Paul did.”(24)
This extremely early material is affirming that Paul worked alongside Peter in leading and commanding the Christian church in Rome. Ignatius has other valuable remarks affirming the reliability of the Apostle Paul. For example, in writing to the Christians in Ephesus Ignatius relays that Paul accurately gave the Gospel to the Ephesians, that Paul was martyred for his faith (which also shows Paul’s reliability) as well as his deep respect and honor for Paul:
 “You are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found, when I shall attain to God; who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.”(25)
Ignatius often quotes Paul’s epistles as authoritative writings thus demonstrating that Paul was viewed positively in the earliest strand of 1st century Christianity. For example in Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians Ch. 18 he quotes 1 Corinthians 1:20, he states: “Where is the wise man? Where the disputer? Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? Four our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.” 1 Corinthians 1:20 states: Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” In Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians Ch. 11 he quotes 1 Timothy 1:1, he states: “Jesus Christ, who is our hope, from which may no one of you ever be turned aside.” 1 Timothy 1:1 states: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” In Ignatius’ Letter to Polycarp Ch. 5 he quotes Ephesians 5:25, he states: “In like manner also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church.” Ephesians 5:25 states: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” In the same Letter to Polycarp Ch. 1 Ignatius quotes 1 Thessalonians 5:17, he states: “Give yourself to prayer without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17 states: “pray without ceasing.”
We know that Ignatius was fed to lions in a Roman coliseum for his faith since Christianity was being persecuted by the Roman state.(26) This shows that Ignatius so firmly believed in his theology (which included Paul as a true Apostle with inspired doctrine) that he was willing to be martyred for it. If he knew Paul was an imposter or deceiver he would not be willing to be martyred for his faith. As the saying goes “liars make poor martyrs.” If he wasn’t absolutely sure that Paul was genuine he would not be willing to die for a faith or theology which included Paul as a true Apostle. Hence, the conspiracy theory hypothesis won’t work, nor will the “lack of certainty” hypothesis. It is absurd to say that early fathers like this were in on some conspiracy to introduce Paul to people while supposedly knowing he was an imposter. The only way to get around the evidence would be to discard the evidence, which is extremely irresponsible, or to assert that Ignatius was misled or deceived to accept Paul. But that doesn’t work either because Ignatius was very familiar with the theology of John and the other apostles, other apostolic texts, as well as Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels. So if Paul was teaching something contrary to the apostolic 1st century message and was not accepted by the original Apostles, Ignatius would not have supported Paul the way he did. Ignatius gives no indication that there were any early disputes amongst the 1st century Christians about Paul’s reliability.

Clement of Rome (A.D. ?-101)

Clement of Rome was a 1st century Christian secretary of the church at Rome responsible for correspondence with other churches.(27) There is also evidence to suggest that he was a prominent presbyter of the Roman church. Some believe he was the “fellow worker” Paul mentioned in Philippians 4:3. In his work Against Heresies chapter 3, book 3, section 3 Irenaeus, the 2nd century early writer, notes that Clement of Rome knew the original Apostles:
"...after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles."
In his letter The First Epistle of Clement also known as First Epistle to the Corinthians written in A.D. 96 Clement states the following about Paul:
Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee,and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.”(28)
 “Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the gospel first began to be preached? Truly, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then parties had been formed among you.”(29)
Notice that Clement, in representing the beliefs of the 1st century Church at Rome, grants Paul’s reliability. He mentions Paul’s labours for the Gospel, his persecution for the faith, and his martyrdom. He states that Paul was a “striking example of patience” or in other words “endurance.” Notice also in the second citation that Clement attests to Paul’s reliability in that he calls him a "blessed Apostle," takes Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians as authoritative and valid with respect to Gospel truth, and states that Paul wrote his letter “under the inspiration of the Spirit.” This means Clement, and subsequently those in the 1st century Church of Rome, believed Paul’s letters to be inspired God-breathed Scripture - canon. We know that Clement knew many of the original Apostles and followed the teachings of the Apostle Peter honoring him deeply.(30) Therefore, why would Clement, who being familiar with the original apostolic message of Peter and the other Apostles(31), grant Paul’s reliability if Paul was preaching something other than what Peter and the other Apostles were preaching? Since Clement knew of Peter and his teaching, why would he affirm Paul if Paul was just some imposter? If Paul was not a genuine Apostle with the true original Gospel, then Clement, knowing the message of Peter and the original Apostles, would have either exposed Paul as an imposter or pointed out his theological errors. There is no indication from Clements pen that there were any 1st century disputes amongst the 1st century Christians about Paul’s reliability.

Polycarp of Smyrna (A.D. 69-155)

Polycarp was a 1st century Bishop like Ignatius. He was also a student or pupil of John and the other Apostles. We know this from his writings as well as his contemporary who knew him, Irenaeus (A.D. ?-202). We also know this from Tertullian (A.D. 160-220). Polycarp’s contemporary Irenaeus makes mention of the fact that Polycarp was a Pupil of John and a Pupil of the Apostles being appointed Bishop of the church in Smyrna by the Apostles themselves. Irenaeus also mentions that Polycarp was a martyr for the Christian faith:
For, while I was yet a boy, I saw you in Lower Asia with Polycarp, distinguishing yourself in the royal court, and endeavouring to gain his approbation. For I have a more vivid recollection of what occurred at that time than of recent events (inasmuch as the experiences of childhood, keeping pace with the growth of the soul, become incorporated with it); so that I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse— his going out, too, and his coming in— his general mode of life and personal appearance, together with the discourses which he delivered to the people; also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance. Whatsoever things he had heard from them respecting the Lord, both with regard to His miraclesand his teaching, Polycarp having thus received [information] from the eye-witnesses of the Word of life, would recount them all in harmony with the Scriptures.”(32)

And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points, they were at once well inclined towards each other [with regard to the matter in hand], not willing that any quarrel should arise between them upon this head. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always [so] observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect; so that they parted in peace one from the other, maintaining peace with the whole Church, both those who did observe [this custom] and those who did not.”(33)
But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true.”(34)
In his Epistle to the Philippians Polycarp seems to indicate that he and his church were instructed directly by the Apostles:
“Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us…”(35)
A 2nd century document written around A.D. 156 known as The Martyrdom of Polycarp records his brutal martyrdom showing that he was willing to die for his faith and theology which included Paul as a true Apostle. A burning at the stake failed and he was stabbed:
At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger.”(36)
Therefore, in light of all of this early evidence which demonstrates that Polycarp knew the original Apostles, knew their original 1st century Gospel message, was appointed Bishop of Smyrna by the Apostles and suffered brutal martyrdom for his faith, it is indeed interesting that he would then affirm the Apostle Paul as genuine and sound theologically if Paul was a false Apostle. Polycarp states:
For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, is the mother of us all.”(37)
I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as you have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles.”(38)

For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord? Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world? as Paul teaches. But I have neither seen nor heard of any such thing among you, in the midst of whom the blessed Paul laboured, and who are commended in the beginning of his Epistle. For he boasts of you in all those Churches which alone then knew the Lord; but we [of Smyrna] had not yet known him.”(39)
If Paul was an imposter, then Polycarp, knowing John and the other Apostles as well as their orthodox theology, would have spoken out against Paul. On the other hand if someone asserts that Polycarp was a liar or conspirator trying to mislead people to follow Paul for some nefarious absurd reason then Polycarp would not willingly go to his death for his faith. This evidence is a fatal blow to the egregious falsehood of anti-Pauline critics. Polycarp also identified Paul’s writings as sacred Scripture showing that Paul was viewed as an inspired Apostle by Polycarp and those around him in the 1st century church. For example, he says the following about Ephesians 4:26:
For I trust that you are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures, Be angry, and sin not, and, Let not the sun go down upon your wrath [Eph. 4:26].”(40)
It is germane to note that the early church writer Tertullian (A.D. 160-220) also relayed some pertinent information about Polycarp’s status, he states: “For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John.”(41) This shows that it was widely known that Polycarp knew the original disciples. Therefore, the case is quite clear for Polycarp being a student of the original Apostles. That the blessed Polycarp affirmed Paul’s reliability is irrefutable.

Frequent Gnostic Claims to Authority mean Paul is not Reliable?

One response Muslims have offered is that there were 2nd century Gnostics like Valentinus, Montanus, Maximilla and others who claimed to have authority or receive divine prophecy and revelation. Therefore, Muslims argue, since it was common for people to lie and claim to receive prophecy, authority, and revelation one should not accept Paul. However, this is just the logical fallacy known as the problem of induction fallacy. Just because it is doubtful that these 2nd century people had true apostolic authority and received visions and revelation it doesn’t therefore prove that Paul was false. That would be like saying because my cat is orange therefore all cats must be orange.

Secondly, this is a fallacious argument because such Gnostics are 2nd century. Paul is 1st century. There are no meaningful multiply attested 1st or early 2nd century sources saying these people or their followers knew the original Apostles and were accepted by them. There is a wealth of multiply attested 1st and early 2nd century evidence affirming that Paul and his followers knew the Apostles and were accepted by them. There is no meaningful 1st century evidence that Valentinus, Montanus and Maximilla saw visions of the risen Lord. There is a wealth of 1st century evidence that Paul saw a vision of the risen Lord. There is no evidence whatsoever that Valentinus, Montanus and Maximilla were willingly martyred for their faith. There is reliable 1st and early 2nd century evidence that Paul and his followers were willingly martyred for their faith. Historians are interested in early multiply attested accounts. That is why Paul is reliable. To discard these historical principles is to show incredible bias and demonstrate that one is not interested in what the earliest data says. In light of these facts one can not compare Paul to these later 2nd century Gnostics since the historical evidence is clearly in favour of Paul.

Section 2. Critiquing the Muslim Misuse of the Ebionites

Are the Ebionites and their Claims 1st Century?

Since it is clear that the 1st century case for Paul’s apostleship is strong, Muslims have tried to find some kind of clear 1st century proof that would legitimately discredit Paul as a true Apostle. Their main argument or claim is that an early sect called the Ebionites rejected Paul while claiming to have apostolic authority. It is true that this aberrant sect rejected Paul and there is some evidence to suggest that they claimed to have apostolic authority in that they believed their views were sanctioned by the Apostle James. However, what I will be demonstrating is that Muslims are incorrect for dating this sect and their gospel/beliefs to the 1st century, that the Ebionites were complete antichrist heretics not only according to Christianity but also to Islam, and finally I will show that their absurd reason for denying Paul is not reliable historically.

The original gospel of the Ebionites is lost and we have no works from any of their followers. What we do have is quotations of their gospel and refutations of their beliefs from a 4th century work known as Panarion which was written by the Christian writer Epiphanius of Salamis (A.D. 310/320 – 403). It is agreed that their gospel was a forged mutilated document which quoted from Matthew, Luke and Mark. In it are insertions/interpolations of their own narrations and beliefs as well. Various writers like the 2nd century church father Irenaeus wrote on the Ebionites in his work Against Heresies Book 1 Ch. 26 asserting that “they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life.” The same source also affirms that they” repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law.” However, Irenaeus does not indicate that the Ebionites go back to the 1st century. In his work De Principiis Book 4 the church father Origen (A.D. 185-254) also mentions the Ebionites and says their name [Ebion] means “poor.” Origen also mentions them in his work Against Celsus. The 3rd/4th century historian Eusebius mentions them in his work Church History etc. Although Muslim apologists like Nadir Ahmed, whom I debated on this issue years ago, assert that the Ebionite testimony is 1st century testimony, scholars like Dr. Ron Cameron date the gospel of the Ebionites to the mid 2nd century. In his work The Other Gospels: Non-canonical Gospel Texts Dr. Cameron states:
The Gospel of the Ebionites was composed sometime after the Gospel of Matthew and Luke and before the first reference to it in the writings of Irenaeus (toward the end of the second century). A date of composition in the middle of the second century, when several other gospel harmonies were also being written, is most likely.”(42)
Cameron also notes that the Ebionites were “a group of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians who were prominent through out the second and third centuries.”(43) Dr. Geoffrey W. Bromily notes that the Ebionites were “flourishing in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th cents. A.D.”(44) In the same work Dr. Bromily also dates the Gospel of the Ebionites to the 2nd century. In his work Apocryphal Gospels: an Introduction Dr. Hans Josef Klauck states that the gospel of the Ebionites was “composed most probably in the mid-second century.”(45) It must be stressed that it is widely acknowledged that there is no firm historical material proving that the Ebionite sect itself dates to the 1st century. Dr. Bart Ehrman has offered some speculation on this issue, however. Because he feels that some of their beliefs are somewhat similar to those of the 1st century Galatians that Paul was in opposition to, that maybe the Ebionites are the physical and spiritual descendents of the Galatians.(46) However, Ehrman doesn’t attempt to trace such a line of descent with any meaningful historical evidence. One Muslim apologist, Sami Zaatari, feels that this speculation from Ehrman is enough to prove that “the Ebionites do have a foundation even during the time of Paul.”(47) However, Ehrman himself is not even sure if there were Ebionites at the time when Paul disputed with the Galatians in the 1st century since he says things like, “… if these (Christian) Jews were in existence before the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE…”(48) The fact is that there just is no real solid evidence tracing the Ebionite tribes to the 1st century. They emerged in the 2nd century and so therefore their assertions about Paul not being a true Apostle are merely late opinions far removed from the time of the Apostles. The evidence shows that it wasn’t until Paul was already dead when their fanciful distortions about him emerged.
In fact, the earliest mention of their rejection of Paul comes from Irenaeus’ late 2nd century work Against Heresies and so therefore we have no evidence that their rejection of Paul wasn’t just some 2nd century novelty. Some people argue that the Ebionites can be traced back to 1st century Jerusalem because in Against Heresies Book 1 Ch. 26 Irenaeus reports that “they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God.” However, Sakari Hakkinen states that the “… expression means the typical prayer orientation towards Jerusalem and it cannot be used as evidence of the origins of the Ebionites in Jerusalem. As the Ebionites were committed to Jewish traditions, it was natural that they also prayed like Jews.”(49) In his detailed treatment on the subject Dr. Joseph A. Fitzmyer sums up the current scholarly position saying, “… there is simply no evidence for their existence in the first century A.D., either before or after the destruction of Jerusalem.” (50)

Damaging Heresies of the Ebionites

The fact that the Ebionites were abominable heretics according to both Islamic and orthodox Christian theology should make people question why Muslims use their late singular non-multiply attested testimony against Paul as evidence. Paul warned about potential heretics who would come and forbid the eating of meat and things of this nature:
1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
The Ebionites altered Mark 14:12-15 in their 2nd century gospel (the gospel of the Ebionites) to try to make Jesus a vegetarian suiting their heretical practices. As Epiphanius notes:
And the Lord himself says, ‘Go ye into the city, and ye shall find a man bearing a pitcher of water and ye shall follow whithersoever he goeth, and say ye to the Goodman of the house, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall keep the Passover with my disciples? And he shall show you an upper room furnished; there make ready.’ But the Lord says in turn, ‘With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you.’ And he said, ‘this Passover,’ not simply ‘Passover,” so that no one would practice it in accordance with his own notion. Passover, as I said, was roast meat and the rest. But of their own will these people have lost sight of the consequence of the truth, and have altered the wording-which is evident to everyone from the sayings associated with it-and made the disciples say, ‘Where wilt thou that we prepare for three to eat the Passover?’ And the Lord, if you please, says, ‘Have I desired meat with desire, to eat this Passover with you?’”(51)
This severely damages the credibility of the Ebionites showing that they were deceptive and dishonest. This gives further reason to question their claims about Paul. Moreover, in Origen’s (A.D. 185-254) work Against Celsus he notes that there were different sects of Ebionites, many of which denied the virgin birth of Jesus. Origen mentions the “… the twofold sect of Ebionites, who either acknowledge with us that Jesus was born of a virgin, or deny this, and maintain that He was begotten like other human beings.”(52) This is heresy. Isaiah 7:14 predicts that, “… the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Luke 1:32-35 also condemns the Ebionites:
32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 35And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God.”(Luke 1:32-35)
The Quran also condemns these Ebionites by admitting that Jesus had a virgin birth in Quran 19:19-22 which states:
He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place.” (S. 19:19-22)
The Ebionites held to numerous heresies about Jesus including their claim that Jesus was the person of Adam or a created spirit who was higher than the angels. Epiphanius states:
For some of them even say that Adam is Christ-the man who was formed first and infused with God’s breath. But others among them say that Christ is from above; that he was created before all things; that he is a spirit, higher than the angels and ruler of all; that he is called Christ, and the world there is his portion. But he comes here when he chooses, as he came in Adam and appeared to the patriarchs with Adam’s body on. And in the last days the same Christ who had come to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, came and put on Adam’s body, and he appeared to men, was crucified, rose and ascended.”(53)
This type of apostasy is condemned in John 1:1-3 which affirms that Jesus is the incarnate God when it states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” See also Philippians 2:6-11. This Ebionite heresy is also condemned by Islamic teaching. Quran 5:75 asserts that Jesus was just a human messenger like those who passed away before him, not Adam or a pre-existent exalted spirit:
The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away.” (S. 5:75 Pickthall)
Lastly, a Muslim writer named Abdullah Smith claims that the Ebionites “did not believe Jesus was God, or the ‘son of God.’”(54) However, historians realize that the Ebionites did believe Jesus was the adopted Son of God – a heresy according to both Christianity and Islam. The gospel of the Ebionites alludes to the Baptism of Jesus saying, “… a voice sounded from Heaven that said: ‘You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.’ And again: ‘I have this day begotten you.”(55) They took this and affirmed a form of Adoptionism. According to Christianity Jesus is the eternal divine Son of God bearing the nature of God (Proverbs 30: 3-4; Isaiah 9:6; 1 John 5:20) not the adopted Son. And according to Islam Jesus is not the Son of God in any sense (S. 6:101; 112:1-4).

Therefore, one must question the integrity of any Muslim who would appeal to these antichrist heretics for reliable information on Paul. These 2nd century apostates are unreliable heretics according to both Islam and Christianity and therefore the Muslim apologists ought to stop appealing to them and their opinions as if they somehow represented early orthodox Christian belief. They clearly did not.

The Absurd Ebionite Charge Against Paul

One would expect some kind of meaningful widely acknowledged reason as to why the Ebionites would reject Paul in light of all of the early evidence proving that he was reliable. However, the reason given to us by the Ebionites as to why they asserted that Paul was not a true Apostle is so absurd and outlandish that it makes me question why any Muslim would appeal to their opinions as an argument. Epiphanius writing in the 4th century reports the following Ebionite charge:
"[The Ebionites] declare that he [Paul] was a Greek [...] He went up to Jerusalem, they say, and when he had spent some time there, he was seized with a passion to marry the daughter of the priest. For this reason he became a proselyte and was circumcised. Then, when he failed to get the girl, he flew into a rage and wrote against circumcision and against the sabbath and the Law."(56)
Obviously this is a late concocted fable. It is quite remarkable that this is basis for their bold rejection of Paul. This absurd charge reported in the 4th century by Epiphanius comes from an earlier lost Ebionite source called The Ascents of James. However, this source, which is the original source that this Ebionite fable comes from, is neither early nor reliable. Dr. Georg Strecker and Dr. Robert Van Voorst date the document to A.D. 150-200 and affirm that it was written in Pella in Transjordan. In their work The Brother of Jesus: James the Just and his Mission Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner note that this is the “consensus view on the date and place of origin of the Ascents…”(57) Therefore, this charge against Paul is not reliable historically and thus we have great reason to question the Ebionite claims about Paul.

This Pauline fable is not multiply attested by any other source in the 1st or 2nd centuries. Therefore, this charge against Paul not only fails the historical test of early accounts and early eyewitness testimony, but it also fails the test of multiple independent attestation. The 1st century evidence I discussed earlier flies in the face of this absurd claim as well – rendering it impossible since the orthodox evidenced view has Paul as a true Apostle and martyr for the faith. Based on the nature of this fanciful charge it seems that the Ebionites were hard pressed for any real convincing evidence or argumentation against Paul’s reliability and so after Paul was dead and not able to defend himself, the Ebionites invented this story to justify their heresies and their rejection of Paul’s 1st century apostolic teachings of grace and faith. There is no evidence to suggest that this kind of anti-Pauline Ebionite thinking was part of any major strand of early 1st century Christian teaching - none whatsoever. There is a wide and broad scholarly view for this absurd Ebionite charge against Paul being a later fabricated legend, story or development as opposed to historical reality.(58) 

Section 3. Early Muslim Sources Affirming the Apostleship of Paul 

In this section I will seek to demonstrate that modern Muslims are in error for rejecting the Apostle Paul since there are major strands of early Islamic tradition that grant Paul’s reliability. Let us first turn our attention to the Quran itself. Many are unaware that the Quran gives an indirect argument for Paul’s reliability:
"Behold! Allah said: 'O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the day of resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.'" (S. 3:55)

"O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah: as said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the Disciples, "We are Allah's helpers!" then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed." (S. 61:14)
Here the Quran demonstrates that Paul was a true Apostle as well as a true follower of Jesus since these two texts state that the true followers of Jesus will be superior to until the day of resurrection and that the true early Israelites who followed Jesus would be given power against their enemies and prevail over all other beliefs. However, we know historically that the followers of Jesus who prevailed and who were superior were those who followed Apostles like Paul along with the rest of the 12 Apostles. This means that Paul's message was the true message since it became dominant and prevailed along with the Christians who affirmed it. Muslim apologist Nadir Ahmed demonstrates the point and unknowingly proves that Paul is a true Apostle and that his followers were correct according to the Quran:
To make a long story short, Paul’s church eventually beat out its competitors, and arose as the sole victorious Church which is present today.”(59)
Moreover, the Quran nowhere mentions the Apostle Paul by name or condemns him by name. Muhammad’s ignorance of the 1st century may explain why this is so. But, for argument sake I would pose the following question to the Muslims who believe that Allah is the author of the Quran: If Paul was a false Apostle and major corruptor of early Christianity then why didn’t Allah mention this explicitly and warn people about Paul or inform Muslims about how he supposedly corrupted Christianity? I contend that this is a later development. In fact it seems that the Quran has absolutely no knowledge of these issues. In my debate with the Muslim apologist Nadir Ahmed he posed a response to the previous argument without actually dealing with the substance of S. 3:55 and 61:14. He argued that Muhammad taught that there was no prophet between Jesus and Muhammad and since Paul fits the description of Prophet, Islam rejects Paul indirectly. Sahih Muslim states:
Book 030, Number 5834:

"Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: I am most akin to the son of Mary among the whole of mankind and the Prophets are of different mothers, but of one religion, and no Prophet was raised between me and him (Jesus Christ)."
However, all this shows is that the Islamic sources contradict themselves, nothing more. On the one hand the Quran affirms Paul’s reliability indirectly. On the other hand a Hadith rejects him indirectly. All this does is show a contradiction in the Islamic sources that Muslims need to reconcile. It doesn’t refute the fact that the Quran indirectly affirms Paul’s reliability. Moreover, although Paul had the characteristics of a prophet, Christians didn’t really view him in the same category as Moses or Isaiah but instead viewed him in the category of Apostles like Peter or James and so it is unlikely that this Hadith in Sahih Muslim even had Paul in mind. If this narration amounts to a rejection of Paul, then it likewise rejects Peter and John and all of the Apostles of Jesus. Suddenly, we are left with no Apostles at all. Clearly, the context of that Hadith in question has nothing to do with Paul.

Commenting on S. 61:14 the respected Islamic commentator Al-Qurtubi grants the apostleship of Paul:
It was said that this verse was revealed about the apostles of Jesus, may peace and blessing be upon him. Ibn Ishaq stated that of the apostles and disciples that Jesus sent (to preach) there were Peter and Paul who went to Rome; Andrew and Matthew who went to the land of the cannibals; Thomas who went to Babel in the eastern lands; Philip who went to Africa; John went to Dac-sos(?) which is the tribe to whom the sleepers of the cave belonged; Jacob went to Jerusalem; Bartholomew went to the lands of Arabia, specifically Al-Hijaz; Simon who went to the Barbarians; Judas and Barthas(?) who went to Alexandria and its surrounding regions.”(60)
Notice that this ancient Muslim tradition has Paul as a true apostle. If Muhammad and the early Muslims taught that it was a priority to view Paul as a false usurper whose teachings were to be avoided then we would not expect to find these ancient Muslim traditions which grant Paul’s reliability. If it were a clear Muslim doctrine in the 7th and 8th centuries to reject Paul as the corrupter of Christianity then one would not expect to find comments like this from Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Ishaq. In a separate work, The Life of Muhammad, the 8th century Muslims historian Ibn Ishaq reports a tradition informing us about a popular early Muslim view about Paul:
"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 which is 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 the Berbers; Judah who was not one of the disciples was put in place of Judas."(61)
Similarly the 9th century Islamic exegete and historian al-Tabari has this to say of Paul:
"Among the apostles, and the followers who came after them were the Apostle Peter and Paul who was a follower and not an apostle; they went to Rome. Andrew and Matthew were sent to the country whose people are man-eaters, a land of blacks, we think; Thomas was sent to Babylonia in the east, Philip to Qayrawan (and) Carthage, that is, North Africa. John went to Ephesus, the city of the youths of the cave, and James to Jerusalem, that is, Aelia. Bartholomew was sent to Arabia, namely, the Hijaz; Simeon to the land of the Berbers in Africa. Judas was not then an apostle, so his place was taken by Ariobus. He filled in for Judas Iscariot after the latter had perpetrated his deed."(62)
Sam Shamoun has offered a detailed discussion(63) on the subject of early Islam’s view of Paul wherein he states that with respect to this kind of identification of Paul as a follower and not a disciple, that this is in no way meant to discredit Paul or defame him. Shamoun notes that the translator of al-Tabari’s history, Moshe Perlmann, comments on this saying that, “[i]n Islamic terms the messengers or apostles pave the new path. Their work is continued by the tabi'un, the followers, members of the next generations, who lead the Faithful.”(64) Therefore, by identifying Paul as a follower and not an apostle, this has nothing to do with questioning Paul’s status or reliability – it has to do with his sequential chronology. It is very interesting that although later generations of Muslims are quick to attack the Apostle Paul, the evidence shows that there was an early strand of Islamic tradition reported by some of Islam’s greatest sources granting the reliability of the Apostle Paul.

Al-Tabari also states that Paul was martyred for his faith which further shows his credibility as well as early Islam’s support of Paul and Jesus’ Apostles:
Abu Ja'far says: They assert that after Tiberius, Palestine and other parts of Syria were ruled by Gaius, son of Tiberius, for four years. He was succeeded by another son, Claudius, for fourteen years, following which Nero ruled for fourteen years. He slew Peter and crucified Paul head down. For four months Botlaius [Vittelius] ruled thereafter.”(65)
What must be stressed about all of this data is that if the orthodox Muslim understanding at the time was an emphatic recognition that Paul was a usurper or corrupter, we simply would not see references like this about Paul being an Apostle or follower of Jesus. These writings demonstrate that the anti-Pauline sentiment we see from Muslims today is not based on any clear teaching of Muhammad or early Islam, it is the product of a process of development in trying to solve the problem as to why Christianity is different than Islam.

For further reading on the issue of early Islam’s view on Paul as well as a comparison between Paul’s theology and Jesus’ theology, proving that they taught the same things, see the following articles: 


In this article we have seen that the 1st century Biblical data on Paul is unanimous and clear. We saw that it contains pertinent information which historians find persuasive in demonstrating that Paul was reliable. We saw that the early extra-biblical testimony from those who knew the Apostles or who were familiar with their views and writings affirmed Paul’s reliability. We saw that these early martyrs truly believed in their theology which included Paul as a true Apostle and were willing to die for that belief. We saw that the Muslim utilization of the Ebionites’ testimony as an argument is hopelessly fallacious in light of the evidence and the consensus of scholarship which shows that the Ebionites, their gospel, and their beliefs are unreliable and 2nd century - not 1st century. We saw that the Ebionites were unreliable deceptive heretics according to both Islamic and Christian theology who even altered the Gospel of Mark to suit their heretical views. We saw that they held to numerous damnable heresies. We saw that their rejection of Paul is not reliable in that they invented 2nd century fables about him that have no basis in reality. We saw that serious scholarship is clear in rejecting their testimony and placing them and their material in the 2nd century. And lastly we saw that there is a very early strand of Islamic tradition that grants the validity of the Apostle Paul. I honestly feel that the Muslim has absolutely no historical basis for rejecting Paul’s apostleship but that they are forced to do so because of sustainability and philosophical or faith reasons.
Christ has risen, He is Lord!


1.) In Quran 7:157 Muslims are told that Muhammad is allegedly “described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them...” This assumes that the Gospel which was with the Christians in the 7th century (the same Gospel we have today) is reliable. There is no historical proof for 7th century Christians reading any other Gospel than the New Testament material. Hence, this demonstrates that the Quran taught that the New Testament was not some corrupt document as Muslims would later claim. In Quran 5:68 the Muslims are told that 7th century Jews and Christians ought to listen to Allah and “perform the Torah and the Gospel [Injil], and what was sent down to you from your Lord…” This again assumes that the 7th century Scriptures that Christians were reading (the New Testament) was in its pristine form and could be accurately performed. In Quran 6:114 we are told that, “Those unto whom We gave the Scripture [the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] know that it is revealed from your Lord in truth.” This again shows that the 7th century Gospel that Christians read was reliable and not some corrupt text as later Muslims would assert.
2.) It is important to note that 2 Peter itself is not an unnamed work. In 1:1 it states: “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Therefore, when early Christians alluded to it or quoted it as an authoritative text they are giving implicit recognition of its Petrine authorship which it claims for itself. Many hold that the extremely early 1st century extra-biblical document known as the Letter to the Corinthians written by Clement of Rome alludes to 2 Peter 2:5. The Letter to the Corinthians Ch. 7 states: “Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved.” This seems to be an allusion to 2 Peter 2:5 which says: “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” This demonstrates that those in the 1st century Church of Rome like Clement believed 2 Peter to be authoritative and Petrine. Another extra-biblical Christian text from A.D. 100 known as the Epistle of Barnabas in Ch. 15 states: “This implies that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years.” This is a quotation of 2 Peter 3:8 which states: “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” This shows that the Christian author of the Epistle of Barnabas held 2 Peter to be authoritative and Petrine. Examples of patristic writings quoting 2 Peter include Irenaeus’ quotation of 2 Peter 3:8 in his work Against Heresies Book 5 Ch. 28. The 2nd/3rd century church father Clement of Alexandria seems to allude to 2 Peter 2:5 in his work The Stromata Book 1 Ch. 21. The 3rd century church father Cyprian quotes 2 Peter 2:11-12 in his work Treatises of Cyprian Treatise 12 Ch.11 and calls this work “The Epistle of Peter.” This shows that Cyprian and those around him viewed 2 Peter as a Petrine document. Papyrus 72 or P72 is a 3rd/4th century Greek manuscript which was found in Egypt and it contains sections of 2 Peter demonstrating that these early Christians regarded 2 Peter as canonical, authentic and Petrine. The Coptic Sahidic translation of the Bible contained 2 Peter. Scholars like Dr. Horner and Dr. Hornack state that the Coptic Sahidic translation of the Bible is 2nd century. This again shows that early tradition has it so that 2 Peter was authoritative and authentic among many early Christians. The Apocalypse of Peter is a 2nd century extra-biblical Christian-Gnostic apocalyptic work which drew from 2 Peter demonstrating that the author believed 2 Peter to be authoritative and possibly Petrine.
3.) Examples of Jesus and the Apostles preaching repentance, holiness and sanctification (being set apart from the world) can be found in Luke 13:5: “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:38: “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Acts 2:38: “And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you...” James 1:21: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” 1 John 1:6: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Jude 1:14: “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him." 16These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. 17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18They said to you, "In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." 19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” Revelation 2:5: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
4.) Dr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley states: “… Pelagius concluded that Christian perfection was not only a possibility for all believers – it was also the expected result of moral effort.” Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1995], p. 325
5.) Examples would be King David in Psalm 51:2-5: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Another example would be King Solomon’s lapse into sin and his subsequent repentance in 1 Kings 11:4-6 “4For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6And Solomon did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and went not fully after Jehovah, as did David his father.” Solomon’s repentant heart is evident in the book of Ecclesiastes. The Apostle Peter sinned by denying the Lord three times. He then wept bitterly and was then reinstated as a prime Apostle by Jesus Himself as is evidenced in Matthew 26:73-75: “73After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." 74Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed. 75And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.” Jesus re-instated the repentant Peter in John 21:15-17 where Peter showed his love for the Lord Jesus.
6.) As opposed to being self righteous, prideful and dishonest, Jesus taught that salvation is attained when a person humbles themselves, admits that they are sinners and seeks God’s righteousness remaining repentant and reliant on God’s grace. Luke 18:9-14 "14He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
7.) First, Jesus Himself taught that Peter would die a faithful man following God in John 21:18-19 which demonstrates that Peter learned from his mistake with Paul in Galatians 2:11-14 and was put back on the path of righteousness for the remainder of his life: “18Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." 19(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, "Follow me." Moreover, there is early extra-biblical material which mentions Peter and Paul simultaneously teaching the Christians in Rome. This proves that Peter and Paul reconciled their past differences (the Galatians 2:11-14 dispute). This is evidenced in the 1st century document known as The Letter to the Romans written by Ignatius of Antioch who was a pupil of the Apostles: “I do not command you, as Peter and Paul did” (Ch. 4). Moreover, the 2nd century church father Irenaeus reports an ancient tradition about Peter and Paul’s time in Rome together demonstrating that they remained close despite their conflict in Galatians 2:11-14. Irenaeus states: “…by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies Book 3 Ch. 3) Their martyrdom’s in Rome are documented by Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians Ch. 5: “Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.” This evidence serves as weighty proof for the fact that despite Peter and Paul’s dispute in Galatians 2:11-14, they remained close friends and fellow Apostles in life.
8.) Dr. Ben Witherington III, The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus, [InterVarsity Press, 2001], p. 305
9.) In his work The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, p. 318 Dr. Mike Licona notes that A.D. 30 is the “more standard dating.”
10.) Dr. Craig L. Blomberg argues for this date in “The Case for Christ”, [Zondervan, 1998], p. 35
11.) Dr. Gary. R. Habermas, David J. Baggett, Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew, [InterVarsity Press, 2009], p. 35
12.) Howard Clark Kee, What can We Know about Jesus? [Cambridge University Press, 1990], pp. 1-2
13.) Dr. Gary Habermas notes: “The most popular view among scholars is that Paul first received this very early material when he visited Jerusalem just three years after his conversion.” Gary R. Habermas, To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview: Essays in Honor of Norman L. Geisler, [InterVarsity Press, 2004], p. 183. Other less popular theories as to where Paul got the 1 Corinthians 15 creed have been listed by Dr. Mike Licona: “Paul appears to have visited Jerusalem perhaps two more times prior to writing 1 Corinthians (Acts 11:27-30; 15:1-29; Gal 2:1-20). On the occasion mentioned in Galatians, Paul met with the Jerusalem leadership in private. If Acts 15:1-29 reports the same visit, his interaction with the Jerusalem leadership went beyond his interaction described in Galatians 2. Paul could have been the recipient of tradition during these visits. Even more possibilities exist. He may have received some of the tradition from Barnabas or James during his first postconversion visit to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-29; Gal 1:19). In Galatians 2:11 Paul reports a visit by Peter to Antioch. Paul may have received tradition from Peter or from one of those who had accompanied him during this time. In Acts 11:25-30 and 12:25-15:30, Luke reports that Paul and Barnabas spent a significant amount of time together. Paul could have received tradition from this Jerusalem leader during this period.” See Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, [InterVarsity Press, 2010], pp. 231-232 for a few more additional views as to where Paul got the creed.
14.) Michael Goulder, “The Baseless Fabric of a Vision.” Resurrection Reconsidered, ed. Gavin D’Costa, [Oneworth, 1996], p. 48
15.) Ulrich Wilckens, Resurrection: Biblical Testimony to the Resurrection: An Historical Examina­tion and Explanation, [St. Andrew Press, 1977], p. 2
16.) Walter Kaspar, Jesus the Christ, trans. V. Green, [Paulist, 1976], p. 125
17.) Gerd Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus, trans. John Bowden, [Fortress, 1994], p. 38
18.) James D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003], p. 825
19.) Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, [SCM Press, 1998], p. 490
20.) Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, [Macmillan, 1980], p. 10
21.) Frederick Fyvie Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000],  pp. 85-86
22.) William Durant, The Story of Civilization, Caesar and Christ, vol. 3, [Simon & Schuster, 1972], p. 555
23.) In the early document known as The Martyrdom of Ignatius Ch. 1 we read: “… Ignatius, the disciple of John the apostle, a man in all respects of an apostolic character, governed the Church of the Antiochians with great care…” The 3rd/4th century church historian Eusebius states that Ignatius was the second Bishop of Antioch after the Apostle Peter, Evodius preceding him, which shows that Ignatius was in very close proximity to the Apostles. Eusebius states: “At this  time Ignatius was known as the second Bishop of Antioch, Evodius having been the first. Symeon likewise was at that time the second ruler of the church of Jerusalem, the brother of our Saviour having been the first.”(Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, Ch. 22) And: “…Ignatius, who was chosen bishop of Antioch, second in succession to Peter…” (Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, Ch. 36). The 4th/5th century Christian Theodoret also states: “You have no doubt heard of the illustrious Ignatius, who received episcopal grace by the hand of the great Peter, and after ruling the church of Antioch, wore the crown of Martyrdom.” (Theodoret, Dialogues, 1)
24.) Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, Ch. 4
25.) Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians, Ch. 12
26.) The fact that Ignatius was willing to die for his faith and theology, which included Paul as an inspired Apostle, comes to us from various early texts. Ch. 5 of his Epistle to the Romans, ironically, is titled “I desire to die.” On his way to be martyred in Rome he states: “From Syria even unto Rome I fight with beasts, both by land and sea, both by night and day, being bound to ten leopards, I mean a band of soldiers, who, even when they receive benefits, show themselves all the worse. But I am the more instructed by their injuries [to act as a disciple of Christ]; yet am I not thereby justified. May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray they may be found eager to rush upon me, which also I will entice to devour me speedily, and not deal with me as with some, whom, out of fear, they have not touched. But if they be unwilling to assail me, I will compel them to do so. Pardon me [in this]: I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple. And let no one, of things visible or invisible, envy me that I should attain to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.” In the early document known as The Martyrdom of Ignatius Ch. 6 we read: “Then, being immediately thrown in, according to the command of Cæsar given some time ago, the public spectacles being just about to close (for it was then a solemn day, as they deemed it, being that which is called the thirteenth in the Roman tongue, on which the people were wont to assemble in more than ordinary numbers ), he was thus cast to the wild beasts close beside the temple.” The 3rd/4th century church historian Eusebius also mentions Ignatius’ martyrdom: “Report says that he was sent from Syria to Rome, and became food for wild beasts on account of his testimony to Christ.” (Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, Ch. 36)
27.) The early 2nd century document known as The Shepherd of Hermas states the following about Clement of Rome: “Write, then, two small booklets, one for Clement and one for Grapte. Clement will then send it to the cities abroad since this is his duty…” (The Shepherd of Hermas, Vision 2, 4)
28.) Clement, The First Epistle of Clement, Ch. 5
29.) Clement, The First Epistle of Clement, Ch. 47
30.) We know Clement followed Peter’s message, considered him a valid Apostle, and honored him: “Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him.” (Clement,The First Epistle of Clement, Ch. 5)
31.) Evidence for Clements familiarity with the teachings of Peter and the other Apostles comes from that fact that in his letter to the Corinthians he quotes or alludes to numerous texts from Peter, the Gospels and the Apostles. For example in Ch. 2 he appeals to 1 Peter 2:17. In Ch. 11 he appeals to 2 Peter 2:6-9. In Ch. 24 he appeals Luke 8:5. In Ch. 27 he appeals Matthew 24:35. In Ch. 31 he appeals to James 2:21. He knew of and followed these apostolic texts and teachings and so if Paul was opposed to them and was not accepted by the Apostles, Clement would either expose Paul or not support him – or both.
32.) Irenaeus, Letter to Roman Presbyter Florinus
33.) Irenaeus, Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus, 3
34.) Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 3
35.) Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, Ch. 6
36.) The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Ch. 16
37.) Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, Ch. 3
38.) Ibd.
39.) Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, Ch. 11
40.) Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, Ch. 12
41.) Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 32
42.) Ron Cameron, The Other Gospels: Non-canonical Gospel Texts, [Westminster John Knox Press, 1982], p. 104
43.) Ibd. p. 103
44.) Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J, Vol. 2, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1982], p. 9
45.) Hans Josef Klauck, Apocryphal Gospels: an Introduction, [Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003], p. 51
46.) “They also believed that to belong to the people of God, one needed to be Jewish. As a result, they insisted on observing the Sabbath, keeping the kosher, and circumcising all males. That sounds very much like the position taken by the opponents of Paul in Galatia. It may be that the Ebionite Christians were their descendants, physical and spiritual.” Bart, Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we Never Knew, [Oxford University Press, 2003], p. 100
47.) Sami Zaatari, The Ebionites
48.) Bart, Ehrman, Lost Christianities: the Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we Never Knew, [Oxford University Press, 2003], p. 101
49.) Sakari Hakkinen, A Companion to Second-Century Christian "Heretics", [BRILL, 2008], p. 271
50.) Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament, vol. 1, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997], p. 447
51.) Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, 30. 22. 1-4
52.) Origen, Against Celsus, Book 5, Ch. 61
53.) Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 30. 3. 3
54.) Abdullah Smith, Paul the Corrupter
55.) Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, 30.13.7-8
56.) Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, 30.16.6-9
57.) Bruce Chilton, Jacob Neusner, The Brother of Jesus: James the Just and his Mission, [Westminster John Knox Press, 2001], p. 37
58.) John Gager states that the Ebionites “developed a legend to explain Paul’s opposition to the law.” (John Gager, The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes Toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, [Oxford University Press, 1985], p. 187). Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner state that, “Epiphanius reports a legend among the Ebionites that Paul accepted circumcision in the first place only to marry the daughter of the high priest...” (Bruce Chilton, Jacob Neusner, Types of Authority in Formative Christianity and Judaism, [Routledge, 1999], p. 161). A. F. J. Klijn and G. J. Reinink identify this Ebionite charge as a “story.” (F. J. Klijn, G. J., Reinink Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects, Vol. 36, [Brill Archive, 1973], p. 37). In reference to this specific Ebionite charge Harold W. Attridge states: “Another category of legends pertains to stories that characterize various aspects of an apostle’s character…Christians opposed to Paul told the following story…” (Harold W. Attridge, Eusebíus, Christianity, and Judaism, [Wayne State University Press, 1992], p. 173). Commenting on this charge Matthew A. Jackson-McCabe states that, “Epiphanius transmits some new (fictitious) stories that illustrate the Ebionites’ anti-Paulinism. For instance, the Ebionites explained that Paul’s antipathy toward the law and circumcision was caused by his unfortunate love affairs.” (Matthew A. Jackson-McCabe, Jewish Christianity Reconsidered: Rethinking Ancient Groups and Texts, [Fortress Press, 2007], p. 88). Richard N. Longenecker states that this Ebionite charge is one in a “cycle of stories fostered in Ebionite circles of the late second and early third centuries.” (Richard N. Longenecker, The Road from Damascus: The Impact of Paul's Conversion on his Life, Thought, and Ministry, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997], p. 4
60.) Tafsir Al-Qurtubi, 61:14
61.) Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, trans. Alfred Guillaume, [Oxford University Press], p. 653; bold emphasis ours
62.) al-Tabari, History, Volume IV, p. 123; bold emphasis ours
64.) al-Tabari, History, Volume IV, p. 123; note 317
65.) al-Tabari, History, Volume IV, p. 126; bold emphasis ours

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