Did Paul corrupt Jesus’ teaching? A response to Muslims’ objection
Many Muslims believe that the present teaching of Christianity is the work of the apostle Paul. They claim that it was Paul who created his own version of the Christian faith at the expense of those whom Jesus had chosen. They state that there was a struggle between Pauline and Judeo-Christianity and eventually Pauline Christianity triumphed. They speculate: perhaps it “won” because it was more “attractive” through incorporating some “pagan” ideas. According to this theory, the struggle started when Paul disagreed with Peter (Galatians 2:1-16) and then with Barnabas (Acts 21:17-20).
Certainly the Scriptures mentions Paul’s confrontation where he rebuked Peter. The argument involved an aspect of the Mosaic law and not the major doctrines of Christianity. However, the matter resolved itself because Peter and Paul were soon in complete agreement, so much so that we later find a passage In a letter of Peter’s, part of the Bible, where Peter calls Paul “our dear brother” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
The companions of Muhammad also had arguments and differences with each other on religious matters. Some were very serious, such as the dispute between Uthman and Ibn Masood concerning the compilation of the Qur’an by Zaid Bin Thabit. The situation flared up to the extent that Uthman, then the caliph, had Ibn Masood thrown out of the mosque and threatened him with excommunication.
If such a situation is not proof of Uthman establishing his brand of islam and the text of Qur’an by force, then the two occasions of minor disagreements between Paul with Peter and Barnabas should not be a problem either. As the majority of Muslims believe, their quarrels did not affect the integrity of the message of the Qur’an, the same can be said about the Bible.
The example of Paul’s minor disagreements with both Peter and Barnabas are different from Muslims, however, in that some sects of Islam who had differences actually fought each other. Paul reconciled with both Peter and Barnabas; he did not consider them heretics in the slightest. There is no basis in history for the idea that there was a struggle between “Paul’s group” and the true disciples of Jesus, that the true disciples lost, and that only Pauline teaching prevailed. Such an idea is even against the Islamic Scriptures. The Qur’an describes a struggle between believers and unbelievers but states that God gave power to true believers in Jesus against their enemies. God gave them victory and so they became dominant (Sura 61:14).
Elsewhere, the Qur’an states that the People of the Book had a division among themselves; they fought each other and among them there were those who ignored a part of what was revealed. They placed enmity and hatred between others but true believers continued in their faith and succeeded (Sura 42:13-14; 2:253; 5:15-16; 61:14). In none of these verses does it say that “unbelieving Christians” changed the Bible or that they gained victory over true Christians as some Muslims would like to believe. This is not only historically false but it also directly contradicts the teaching of the Qur’an.
On this and related subject, please read: Steven Masood, The Bible and the Qur’an: A question of Integrity