Did Paul or other Bible writers corrupt the Injil?

This is a great question. The danger for all of us is that we can either ask it with a superficial answer already in our minds. “Of course Paul or one of the others corrupted it”, we can quickly answer without thinking too much about it, mostly because this is simply what we have heard. Or, we can think, “Of course not! What a silly idea”, again without really knowing why but mostly because we have been taught that way. This is the danger for all people who ask questions of sacred Books.  We either dismiss it out-of-hand (because how we have been taught to think it not sacred) or we dismiss the question out-of-hand (again because of how we have been taught differently).

New Testament Writes other than Paul

With these considerations in mind I want to share my thinking and reasons on this question. Let us start with the writers aside from Paul. These writers were the disciples of Isa (PBUH) – his companions. They were the ones who followed him, listened to him, discussed with him, about the things that he did and said, both privately and in public. Some of them, such as John, Matthew and Peter were part of the inner circle of Isa’s 12 closest followers. They wrote eight of the books in the New Testament. Others, such as Mark, were among his wider circle of followers. The remaining authors (outside of Paul) were his brothers James and Jude. They grew up with Isa (PBUH) and James became the leader of the disciples in Jerusalem after the passing of Isa (PBUH) from this world. James, in fact, is mentioned in the Jewish historical writings of the 1st century AD. In that century there was a great Jewish military historian, Josephus, who wrote several books of history to the Roman Emperors of his day. In one of his books, writing of events in Jerusalem in the year 62 AD (32 years after the passing of Isa) he writes of how James, Isa’s brother, was martyred by his fellow Jews. Here is how he puts it:

“Ananus [the high priest] was rash and followed the Sadducees, who are heartless when they sit in judgment. Ananus thought that with Festus dead and Albinus still on the way, he would have the opportunity. Convening the judges of the Sanhedrin [the Jewish ruling council] he brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law, and condemned them to be stoned to death” Josephus. 93 AD. Antiquities xx 197

Josephus is explaining that in 62 AD Ananus had just been made high priest in Jerusalem and there was a political confusion. Ananus used the opportunity to condemn James to death. His father (also called Ananus) had sentenced Isa (PBUH) to death about 30 years before and Ananus the son quickly took the opportunity to do the same with James. Thus James was a target for his years of leadership in Jerusalem with the followers of Isa al Masih (PBUH) his brother in Jerusalem.

What does the Qur’an say about these disciples of Isa (PBUH)?

So it is these men who wrote the books in the New Testament other than Paul’s books. To judge whether they corrupted the Injil we can first turn to the perspective given in the Qur’an. When I do that I find the following ayat:

When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) God?” Said the disciples: “We are God’s helpers: We believe in God, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims. Our Lord! we believe in what Thou hast revealed, and we follow the Apostle; then write us down among those who bear witness.” (Surat 3:52-53 – Al-Imran)

And behold I inspired the Disciples to have faith in me and mine messenger (Isa): they said, “We have faith, and you bear witness that we bow to Allah as Muslims (Surat 5:111 – Table Spread)

These ayat tell us quite plainly that the disciples of Isa (Jesus – PBUH) were a) Isa’s helpers, b) Allah’s helpers, c) and inspired by Allah to have faith in Isa. These disciples spoken of here in the Qur’an include none other than Matthew, Peter and John who wrote eight of the books in the New Testament, two of which are gospel books (Gospels of Matthew and John).  And Mark, the disciple in the wider circle, wrote a third gospel. It would seem that if one believes in the Qur’an that one would also then have to accept the writings of these disciples. These writers certainly could not have corrupted the Injil.  When we study the written gospels we are reading the writings of the disciples which are confirmed by the Qur’an.  Paul did not write any Gospel account, rather he wrote sacred letters.

Now where I live in Canada few people readily believe that there are any books by Allah. Just because something is written in Qur’an or Bible (al kitab) does not mean that they would accept it. In fact they prefer secular historical sources because, in their eyes, they are less biased. But even from that point-of-view we have seen, from the writings of the historian Josephus quoted above, that there is a solid basis to accept the writings of James, and by extension, his other brother Jude.

So we find, whether from secular sources or from the Qur’an, logical reasons to accept the books of the New Testament that are not Paul’s.

The Witness of Isa (PBUH): the Taurat and Zabur are the first standards

But what about Isa himself? What did he give as the testimony we should accept?  Notice where he appeals for a correct and uncorrupted witness to himself and his message.

Here we see that Isa PBUH (who is speaking) is using the Taurat (Book of Moses) to correct error among the experts in Jewish Law (Sharia)

“Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” Mark 12:26-27

And here we see that Isa (PBUH) starts with Taurat and then continues with Zabur (‘Prophets and Psalms’) to teach about his role as the Masih.

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)…

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)

And here we see that Isa again starts with Taurat (Moses’ writings) as the basis to judge the role of the Masih.

If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.  But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5: 46-47)

So we can see that Isa (PBUH) himself first appeals to Moses (which is the Taurat), then the Prophets and Psalms (which is the Zabur) to explain the role and purpose of the Masih. This is the reason I decided, both in my search, and now in this website, to start with the Taurat. If you look at the articles on the Signs of Adam, Cain&Abel, Noah, Lut, Ibrahim 1, 2, and 3 etc. you will see that the passages that support these articles all come from Taurat (and the Qur’an).

We are on safe ground if we start with the Taurat – Isa (PBUH) himself told us to. Here we are learning Signs that will help to unlock the mystery of the Injil. Then we will take what we have learned and compare it with the writings of the brothers and disciples of Isa – again staying on safe ground.

Considering Paul

And what about Paul’s writings? What are we to make of them? Once we have studied the Taurat and Zabur and learned the Signs that Allah has definitely sent us, and then when we have studied the books of the disciples and brothers of Isa (PBUH) we knowledgeable  enough so that if we turn to Paul we will notice if what he writes is different from what we have already studied. Without this background knowledge of the ‘safe books’ to inform us, it is impossible for us to really know if what Paul wrote is corrupted or not. But to keep our search on safe ground we will not start with Paul because his credentials are not unquestionable.

When I lived in Algeria I was surrounded by Arabic speakers and heard Arabic all the time. But because I did not know any Arabic I was not capable of deciding if what I heard was ‘correct’ Arabic or ‘corrupted’ Arabic. The limitation to make this judgment was in me – not the speakers around me.  I did not have enough knowledge to be a good judge. A few years ago I took a course in Arabic. All people from all sorts of positions told me that the person giving this course spoke ‘correct’ Arabic. His reputation told me I could trust him as a ‘correct’ teacher. Starting from this course – that I knew was correct – I began to learn a bit of Arabic. Unfortunately I was not able to continue, but if I had, I could see that one day I could be in a position to decide if other people spoke ‘correct’ Arabic or ‘corrupted’ Arabic – because I would now have an informed basis from which to judge.

We are using exactly the same safe process to develop a solid understanding of the Signs of Allah, starting from which everybody says is ‘correct’ (Taurat), and then the disciples, to develop the basis to better judge if something else (like Paul) is corrupt or not. The danger for all seekers of the Straight Way is that we either accept too easily as revelation that which should be rejected, or that we discard too quickly the books that Allah intends that we learn from. Proceeding in this way, in humility and prayer before Allah, asking for His guidance, will make sure that we fall into neither error and thus stay on the Straight Path.

Sign 1 of Ibrahim: Blessing

Ibrahim! He is also known as Abraham and Abram (PBUH).  All three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam view him as model to follow. Arabs and Jews today trace their physical ancestry from him through his sons Ishmael and Isaac. He is also important in the line of the prophets because the later prophets build on him.  So we will look at the sign of Ibraham (PBUH) in several parts. Click here to read his first sign in the Qur’an and in the Taurat.

We see in the ayat from the Qur’an that Ibrahim (PBUH) was to have ‘tribes’ of people coming from him. These people were then to have a ‘great Kingdom’. But a man must have at least one son before he can have ‘Tribes’ of people, and he must also have a place before these people can have a ‘Great Kingdom’.

Promise to Ibrahim (PBUH)

The passage from the Taurat (Genesis 12:1-7) shows how Allah was going to unfold this double fulfillment of ‘tribes’ and a ‘Great Kingdom’ coming from Ibrahim (PBUH). Allah gave him a promise that was a foundation for the future. Let us review it further in detail. We see that Allah says to Ibrahim:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

 

Greatness of Ibrahim

Many people today where I live wonder if there is a God and how one can know if He really revealed himself through the Taurat.  Here before us is a promise, parts of which we can verify.  The end of this revelation records that Allah directly promised to Ibrahim (PBUH) that ‘I will make your name great‘.  We sit in the 21st century and the name of Ibrahim/Abraham/Abram is one of the most globally recognized names in history.  This promise has literally and historically come true.  The earliest copy of the Taurat that exists today is from the Dead Sea Scrolls which date to 200-100 B.C.  This means that this promise has, at the very least, been in writing since that time.  At that time the person and name of Ibrahim was not well-known – only to the minority of Jews who followed the Taurat.  But today his name is great, so we can verify a fulfillment that has only come about after it was written down, not before.

This part of the promise to Ibrahim has definitely happened, as should be obvious even to unbelievers, and this gives us even greater confidence to understand the remaining part of this promise of Allah to Ibrahim.  Let’s continue to study it.

Blessing to us

Again, we can see the promise of a ‘great nation’ from Ibrahim and a ‘blessing’ to Ibrahim. But there is something else as well, the blessing is not only for Ibrahim because it says that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (i.e. through Ibrahim). This should make you and I sit up and take notice. Because you and I are part of ‘all peoples on earth’ – no matter what our religion, ethnic background, where we live, our social status, or what language we speak. This promise is for everybody alive today.  This is a promise for you.  Though our different religions, ethnic backgrounds and languages often divide people and cause conflict, this is a promise that looks to overcome these things that usually divide us. How? When? What kind of blessing? This was not clearly revealed at this point, but this Sign birthed a promise that is for you and me through Ibrahim (PBUH).  Since we know that one part of this promise has come true, we can have confidence that this other part that applies to us will also have a clear and literal fulfillment – we just need to find the key to unlock it.

We can notice that when Ibrahim received this promise he obeyed Allah and…

“So Abram left as the LORD had told him” (v. 4)

Map of Ibrahim’s journey

How long was this journey to the Promised Land? The map here shows his journey. He lived originally in Ur (Southern Iraq today) and moved to Haran (Northern Iraq). Ibrahim (PBUH) then journeyed to what was called Canaan in his day. You can see that this was a long journey. He would have traveled on camel, horse or donkey so it would have taken many months. Ibrahim left his family, his comfortable life (Mesopotamia at this time was the center of civilization), his security and all that was familiar to travel to a land that was foreign to him. And this, the Taurat tells us, when he was 75 years old!

Animal sacrifices like previous Prophets

The Taurat also tells us that when Ibrahim (PBUH) arrived in Canaan safely:

“So he built an altar there to the LORD “ (v. 7)

An altar would be where, like Qabil and Noah before him, he offered blood sacrifices of animals to Allah. We see that this is a pattern of how the prophets worshiped Allah.

Ibrahim (PBUH) had risked so much so late in his life to travel to this new land. But in so doing he submitted himself to the Promise of Allah to both be blessed and to be a blessing to all Peoples. And that is why he is so important to us. We continue with the Sign 2 of Ibrahim next.

The Sign of Lut

Lut (or Lot in the Taurat/Bible) was the nephew of Ibrahim (PBUH). He had chosen to live in a city full of wicked people. Allah used this situation as prophetic signs for all people. But what are the signs? To answer this we need to pay close attention to the different people in this account. Click here to read the account in both Taurat and Qur’an.

In the Taurat and Qur’an we can see that there are three groups of people, as well as the angels (or messengers) of Allah. Let us think about each in turn.

The men of Sodom

These men were extremely perverse. These men were hoping to rape other men (that really were angels but since the men of Sodom thought they were men they were planning to gang-rape them). This kind of sin was so evil that Allah determined to judge the entire city. The judgment was consistent with the judgment given to Adam. Back in the beginning Allah had warned Adam that the judgment for sin was death. No other kind of punishment (like beating, imprisonment etc.) was enough. Allah had said to Adam

“…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)

Similarly, the punishment for the sins of the men of Sodom was that they also had to die. In fact the entire city and everyone living in it was going to be destroyed by fire from heaven. This is an example of a pattern that was later explained in the Injil:

For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

Lut’s sons-in-law

In the account of Noah, Allah judged the entire world, and consistent with the sign of Adam the judgment was death in a great flood. But the Taurat and Qur’an tell us that the entire world then was ‘evil’. Allah judged the men of Sodom but they too were perversely evil. With only these accounts I might be tempted to think that I am safe from Allah’s judgment, because I am not that evil. After all, I believe in Allah, I do many good things, and I have never committed such evil acts. So am I safe? The sign of Lut with his sons-in-law warns me. They were not part of the gang of men who were trying to commit homosexual rape. However, they did not take the warning of coming Judgment seriously. In fact, the Taurat tells us that they thought ‘he (Lut) was joking’. Was their fate any different from that of the other men of the city? No! They suffered the same fate. There was no difference in outcome between these sons-in-laws and the evil men of Sodom. The sign here is that everyone must take these warnings seriously. They are not only for perverse  people.

Lut’s wife

Lut’s wife is a great sign to us. In both Taurat and Qur’an she also perished along with the other people. She was the wife of a prophet. But her special relationship to Lut did not save her even though she also did not practice homosexuality like the men of Sodom did. The angels had commanded them:

‘let not any of you look back’ (Surat 11:81) The Hud or

‘Don’t look back’ (Genesis 19:17)

The Taurat tells us that

But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26)

What exactly her ‘looking back’ means is not explained. But evidently she thought she could ignore even a small command from Allah and thought it would not matter. Her fate – with her ‘little’ sin – was the same as the men of Sodom with their ‘big’ sin – death. This is such an important sign for me to keep me from thinking that some ‘little’ sins are exempt from Allah’s judgment – Lut’s wife is our Sign to warn us against this wrong thinking.

Lut, Allah and the Angel Messengers

As we saw in the Sign of Adam, when Allah Judged he also provided Mercy. In that Judgment it was by providing clothes of skin. With Noah, when Allah Judged he again provided Mercy through the ark. Once again Allah, even in His Judgment is careful to also give Mercy. The Taurat described it:

When he (Lut) hesitated, the men (the angels that looked like men) grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. (Genesis 19:16)

What can we learn from this? As in the earlier Signs, the Mercy was universal but was provided only through one way – guiding them out of the city. Allah did not, for example, provide Mercy through also making a shelter in the city that could withstand the Fire from Heaven. There was only one way to receive the Mercy – follow the angels out of the city. Allah did not extend this Mercy to Lut and his family because Lut was perfect. In fact, in both Taurat and Qur’an we see that Lut was willing to offer his daughters to the rapists – not a noble offer. The Taurat tells us even that Lut ‘hesitated’ when the angels warned him. Even in all this, Allah extended Mercy by ‘grasping’ him and leading him out. This is a Sign for us: Allah will extend Mercy to us, and it does not depend on our merit. But we, like Lut before us, need to receive this Mercy in order for it to help us. The sons-in-law did not receive it and so they did not benefit from it.

The Taurat tells us that Allah extended this Mercy to Lut because his uncle, the great Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had prayed for him (see the passage in Genesis here). The Taurat continues through the signs of Ibrahim with the promise from Allah that ‘all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me’ (Genesis 22:18). This promise should alert us because no matter who we are, what language we speak, what religion we have, or where we live we can know that both you and I are part of ‘all nations on earth’. If Ibrahim’s intercession moved Allah to extend his Mercy to Lut, even though he did not merit it, how much more will the Signs of Ibrahim extend Mercy to us, who belong to ‘all nations’? With this thought we continue in the Taurat by looking next at the Signs of Ibrahim.

The Qur’an replaces the Bible! What says the Qur’an?

We have seen that both the Qur’an and the Sunnah confirm that the Bible (Taurat, Zabur and Injil that make up al Kitab) has not been changed or corrupted (see here and here).  But the question still remains whether the Bible/al Kitab is superseded, annulled, cancelled or replaced by the Qur’an. What does the Qur’an itself say about this idea?

To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety… Surah 5:48 Al-Ma’ida (The Table)

And before this (Qur’an) was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy; and this book (Qur’an) confirms (it) in the Arabic tongue. Surah (46):12 Al-Ahqaf (The Dunes)

And this is a book (Qur’an) which We have sent down, bringing blessings and confirming (the revelations) which came before it.  Surah (6):92 Al-An’am (The Cattle)

That which We have revealed to thee of the Book is the Truth,- confirming what was (revealed) before it: Surah 35:31 (The Angels)

These ayat speak about the Qur’an confirming (not superseding, overriding or replacing) the earlier message of the Bible (al Kitab).  In other words, these ayat are not saying that believers should set aside the early revelation and only study the later revelation.  Believers should also study and know the earlier revelation.

This is also confirmed by the ayat that tell us that there is ‘no distinction’ between the different revelations.  Here are two such ayat that I have noticed:

The Apostle believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in God, His angels, His books, and His apostles. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles.” And they say: “We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.”  (Surat 2:285 – The Cow)

Say ye: “We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to God (in Islam).” (Surat 2:136 – The Cow)

The first ayah tells us that there is no distinction between the apostles – they all should be listened to and the second says there is no difference between the revelations given by the different prophets – they all should be accepted.  In none of these ayat is there any suggestion that the earlier revelation should be disregarded because the later revelation has superseded it.

And this pattern fits with the example and teaching of Isa al Masih (PBUH).  He himself did not say the earliest revelations of Taurat and then Zabur were cancelled.  In fact he taught the opposite.  Notice the respect and continual and ongoing attention he pays to the Taurat of Musa in his own teaching in the Injil

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (i.e. Taurat) or the Prophets (i.e. Zabur); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)

In fact, to properly understand his teaching he taught that one must first go to the Taurat and then the Zabur.  Here is how he taught his own disciples:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses (i.e. Taurat), the Prophets and the Psalms (i.e. Zabur).” (Luke 24:44)

Isa al Masih (PBUH) did not attempt to bypass earlier revelation.  In fact he started from there in his teaching and guidance.  This is why we also follow his example by starting from the beginning of Taurat to give the foundation to understand the Injil.