An Easter enquiry: ‘How are we made right with God according to Jesus?’

This Easter Christians ponder a story that has been told over and over for the past 2000 years: that the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, made a sacrifice of his own life to make mankind right with God (variants of the story claim: Jesus obtained forgiveness of mankind’s sins through his death; Jesus achieved atonement between God and human beings by his death, on so on).

The religion of Jesus vs. the religion about Jesus

Jesus appears to have taught that his own importance lay in his teaching about the end time (see Mark 13 and passim), in his prophetic call for repentance, and the importance of keeping the central teachings of the Jewish Law as Jesus himself interpreted them. His followers were those who gave up everything to adhere to his teachings. Here are just a few examples of the religion of Jesus which he preached:


To enter into eternal life is to keep the 613 commandments of the Torah. Next we see Jesus teaching his followers to meticulously obey the Jewish Law:

The scribes and Pharisees have a wrong-headed interpretation of the Law. They neglect important parts of the Law given to Moses. They should obey all of it:

Paul of Tarsus on the other hand (who authored nearly half the New Testament books) scarcely mentions any of these things. For him what ultimately mattered was Jesus’s sacrificial death and vindication by God at the resurrection. Those who would be saved were those who had committed themselves in faith to the Christ who died and rose again. In contradiction to the vital importance of keeping the teachings of the Jewish Law in Matthew’s gospel (teachings upheld later by Jesus’s brother James, the first ‘Pope’ of the Jerusalem Church), Paul claims Jesus “abolished the Law”!

In its commentary on Matthew 5: 17-20 (yet another place where Jesus teaches obedience to the Law) the prestigious scholarly work the New Jerusalem Biblical Commentary states,

‘The problem arises because the plain sense of the words is that Jesus affirms the abiding validity of the Torah; but this contradicts Paul. There are contradictions within the NT on penultimate matters. Matthew 5:17-20 was written ‘against the Hellenizing Christians, particularly Paul and his followers’. p.641.

Concerning verses 17, 19 and 20, it notes that these,

‘Reflect the outlook of Jewish Christianity, which, as a separate movement, was eventually defeated by Paulinism and died out, perhaps to be reborn in a different form as Islam.’ p. 641.

This last quote is a remarkable acknowledgment that Islam has much in common with the earliest Jewish Christian faith centred in Jerusalem.  To explore this fascinating historical question further read the excellent book The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity by Lutheran minister and professor of world religions Rev. Jeffrey J. Bütz.


In light of these differences do Jesus and Paul represent the same religion? Should we follow the religion of Jesus or the religion about Jesus? Which world faith today most closely resembles the religion of Jesus?  Further discussion here.  



Categories: Art, Books, Christianity, God, History, The Gospel of Jesus

44 replies

  1. Off topic perhaps but I see that James White is re-affirming his belief that Jesus did not say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” on his blog post.

    I find it sad for him to be going down this road.

    It dishonours Jesus in my view. When Jesus said this on the cross he was fulfilling his own law to love your enemies and the royal law of the OT, love your neighbour as yourself.

    In my view this is what happens when academic reasoning corrupts the faith.


    • So you have clearly joined the Sam Shamoun camp. Can you link to White’s post?

      UPDATE: just seen it. Actually it is not by White at all. Its by Alan E. Kurschner. And he is quite right.


  2. ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20

    Given that Jesus taught that “whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” One can take a good educated guess at what Jesus would have thought and said about Paul of Tarsus who threw out the Law in its entirety and taught others to do the same…he must be even worse than the least.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Even worse than the least” – exactly. In fact an apostate.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The original Orthodoxy as taught by Jesus, Apostle James, and the Jewish Jerusalem Church was eventually rejected and labeled as Heresy by Paul and his Gentile Church whose own heresy and apostasy then became the established Orthodoxy.

      This is the very issue that Jeffery Butz writes about in his book. Also as we know, Dr. Ehrman and many other well respected Biblical scholars have written about and confirmed the same.

      I think this is really shocking stuff for the lay Christian, and shakes Christianity to the foundational core. It is hard to learn that everything you were taught in Church was based on lies, heresy and apostasy, and that you have been mislead away from the original teachings of Jesus which are now largely lost.

      The silver lining in the dark cloud, is that Islam has preserved the original orthodoxy of Jewish Christianity and that anyone can rediscover the true Jesus in the Qur’an, and follow him through acceptance of Islam!!

      Liked by 2 people

    • So your saying your going to abolish the law then? Right got it…


    • Paul, would you say an apostate that should have been stoned to death under Jesus’s law?


    • that is the punishment prescribed by the Law which Jesus upheld.


    • Thanks for the confirmation


  3. I have read the book, “The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity” by Lutheran minister and professor of world religions Rev. Jeffrey J. Bütz. It is an excellent book, and gives a great understanding on Apostle James who was most likely the brother of Jesus. The book discusses how James and the Jewish Church in Jerusalem are more true to the actual original teachings of Jesus, while Paul and the Gentile Church are really a betrayal of the original teachings. Because of these an other reasons, the inconvienient law abiding Jewish follower of Jesus, the Apostle James, was largely ignored and forgotten by the Gentile church, in favor of Peter who could be fashioned as a better representative of Paulinian Christianity. Toward the end of the book, Butz discusses commonalities and links between the Jewish Christianity of James, with Judaism and Islam, and how these links can help heal centuries of enmity.

    I really enjoyed reading the book and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested you will learn a lot of good information which will help you to understand the early origins of Christianity.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well said! His book is a must read.


    • Paul W.
      Based on my own studies and readings, I have been of the opinion that Apostle Peter was like the Apostle James, a true follow of Jesus. However, Peter was misportrayed and misrepresented by Paulinian Christians in order to hold him up as a representative or founder of the Gentile Church.

      However, I recently viewed this link which Qaqawani posted for a book which argues that Peter himself was an apostate according to Matthew.

      Do you have any thoughts on this? Was Peter a true and Loyal Disciple or an Apostate?

      If Peter was actually an apostate, it may explain why the Gentile Church chose him above all other Disciples as their representative and “first pope” even when Apostle James was the actual first Pope and likely the true rock that the Church was founded upon.


    • Was Peter an apostate? I haven’t seen any historical evidence to suggest that he was. But there’s an abundance of evidence that Paul was an apostate, Ephesians 2:15 etc, etc.


    • Paul,
      Yes, I agree with you fully on Paul being an Apostate.

      In regard to Peter I was just asking the question, based on the recent book by Robert Gundry (link above) who makes such an argument. An interesting thought, but not sure what to make of it at this point, or if his view is corroborated by other scholars. I have not read his book yet.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t read it either. But it seems a far fetched idea.


    • Bütz’ work follows in the line of Hugh Schonfield, Hyam Maccoby, Robert Eisenman, and James Tabor.

      which means he is a heretic and not even a Christian – a totally liberal apostate. He violated his religious vows as a Lutheran clergy, as ALL liberals do.

      Better to read “Christianity and Liberalism” by J. Gresham Machen, where he exposes how liberal theology is not even Christian AT ALL.


  4. Interesting.


  5. Interesting.


  6. The obligatory Christophobic attack on Christ and Church at Easter?

    Now, just to repeat myself for the millionth time, Christians believe that a *NEW* covenant was established at the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus taught that and Paul taught that. Appealing to a liberal Catholic Commentary will hardly convince many here in your attempts to put a wedge between Jesus and Paul.

    But, since you appealed to Raymond Brown, how about you deal with the fact that his scholarship also falsifies Islam. Will you be consistent?


    • How about you dealing with the evidence in the article instead of changing the subject?


    • I did. Two words. New Covenant.

      Why do you pretend like your *evidence* isn’t on repeat every two weeks and miraculously remains apparently *unanswered*.

      Better yet, why don’t you actually ever deal with the teaching of the new covenant, that Christ explicitly taught?


    • What did Jesus supposedly teach about obeying the Torah in the new covenant? Reference your answer with quotes from the gospel of Matthew pleace.


  7. Where does the bible say that salvation comes through obedience to the law?


  8. Also, classic bait and switch. The rest of the story in matthew says this…..

    16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

    17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

    18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

    Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

    20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

    21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

    23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

    25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

    26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

    28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

    Why the dishonesty?

    The rich man follows all the commandments, yet, jesus clearly says that this is insufficient. IT is only by following jesus, having faith in his divinity, that one can be saved.

    Once again, the text says the complete opposite of what you want it to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. the first passage that Paul Williams cites, Matthew 19:16-17, is paralleled in Mark 10:17-30; in both cases you have to keep reading and you need to read Mathew 19:18-26.

    And you have been refuted on this many times before:


  10. Muslims think Jesus is teaching that one can be saved by keeping the commandments or giving money to the poor. Verses 23-27 show that Jesus did not intend the man nor us to understand Him as saying that a person can actually keep the commandments and earn salvation. Jesus is rather using the law to expose the man’s hypocrisy and idolatry in his heart. The man boasts that he kept the second table of the law, and Jesus does not say, “excellent, you are perfectly righteous and have kept the commands”, no. Jesus humors the man and says, “one thing you lack, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor”. Jesus knows the man is worshiping his money and possessions in his heart, and so He asks him to do this in order to expose his idolatry in his heart. So, the man did not keep the first and second commandment, because his god was his money. John McArthur has 2 excellent sermons the first one on Mark 10:17-22 here on this passage; and the second one here on verses 23-31.

    The rich young ruler was also a liar, deceiving himself that he could actually keep the commandments, so he had broken the 9th commandment. And every man has violated the 7th commandment in their heart by lusting after someone else – Matthew 5:27-30 and every man has violated the 6th commandment in their heart by anger, hatred, and calling people names. Jesus probes and gets to the root of sins. (see also Mark 7:20-23, where Jesus says that it is the evil thoughts in the heart, on the inside, that cause external sins to take place.) Islam focuses on external sins and does not deal with the root sins. To be fair, there are some verses in the Qur’an and Hadith that talk about internal sins, but it is not an over-riding emphasis in Islam to deal with evil thoughts and pride, sinful anger, sexual lusts, vengeance, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, greed, etc. The emphasis in Islam is the external Sharia law in society, obeying the authorities and one’s parents and doing the rituals of Islam, and being a good moral moral for society.

    Recently I asked Paul Bilal Williams several times, over several days, and at several posts, at his blog ( no longer there) about Mark 10:23-27, but he refused to even try to answer those verses, and then soon afterward, put his blog into “private” mode. It could be that Paul Williams had other reasons for going into private mode, but it sure looks like it was because he could not answer my questions, nor deal with Mark 10:23-27. What is he afraid of? I wonder. I wonder if he will re-arrange posts and delete some of our conversations in the comboxes.

    Mark 10:17-27

    17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

    23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “ Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

    Jesus, in Mark 10:27, teaches that men/man-kind/people (ανθρωποις – plural – men, people. Anthropois = where we get “Anthropology” from – “the study of mankind” ) cannot save themselves by good works or by their efforts or giving to the poor. Jesus says it is “impossible” (αδυνατον). This is consistent with the writings of the apostle Paul (Galatians 2:16; 2:21; the whole book and argument of Galatians; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16; 5:1-11; Philippians 3:9; Ephesians 2:8-9), and the apostle John (John 1:12; 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:29; 8:24; 11:25; 20:30-31) “with men it is impossible” – no one can saved themselves by their own efforts or good works, “but not with God, for all things are possible with God.” The whole NT message is that God saves people by His grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Romans 4:1-16), in Christ alone. (John 3:18; 3:36; 14:6, Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13-15).

    The New Testament is vindicated as one unity by teaching the same basic message. Mark and Matthew agree with Paul and John and all the other NT books/writers. It is wrong for Muslims to use liberal redaction criticism and cherry pick from scholars like Richard Bauckham to try and create layers of editing of the NT books. Muslims cannot deal with Mark 10:23-27.

    Muslims also cannot refute Jesus’ own teachings in Matthew 5:21-26, where He says that the root of murder is in the heart, the hatred, anger, and calling people names; and that internal sin is enough to make a person guilty and condemned to hell.

    Muslims also cannot refute Jesus’ own teachings in Matthew 5:27-30, which reveals the root sin of adultery is sexual lusts and fanatasies and evil thoughts, and that those internal thought sins make one guilty enough to go to hell.

    Muslims cannot deal with Jesus’ own teachings, in Mark 7:20-23, that it is the sin within the heart of man, the evil thoughts, that are the root of all external sins. Islam cannot deal with pride and lust and anger and greed and jealousy and selfishness. Islam has no power of the cross (Romans 6:6), nor does Islam have the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13; Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:13-26). Islam is mostly a system of external laws and rules; in order to control society. It cannot deal with sin in the hearts of people.

    Mark 7:20-23

    20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

    Muslims love to criticize the writings of the apostle Paul and the apostle John, and claim that they are not the true teachings of Jesus, but that Mark and Matthew have the true original teachings of Jesus. Well, here we have several passages that the Muslim cannot dismiss, because they are all early teachings of Jesus Himself from the earliest gospels.

    Jesus also taught that no person can clean himself up by external washings (which in the wudu/vuzu وضو before the ritual prayers, is a major emphasis in Islam), because the ritual washings cannot cleanse the heart. (Mark 7:1-23; Matthew 15:1-20)


    • Islam does address the root causes of sin AND provides a Law to follow for the guidance of mankind in building a better self and society.

      The Qur’an and Hadeeth do address internal sin, and its root causes. The practice of Tazkiyat al qalb wa an-Nafs (the purification of the heart and self) is engaged in for no other reason than to address the root causes of sin, and rid the self of such internal inclinations. Muslims don’t have to refute Jesus on his teachings about internal root causes of sin, because we basically agree with him on those things. However, unlike lawless Christians we adhere to the divine law as a guidance. The emphasis in Islam on following the laws, commandments and guidance of God, while at the SAME TIME focusing on the inner self, and the outerself, purifying oneself from sin, and striving to be a better person, for the benefit of oneself, and society all for the glorification of God. It is a wholistic approach which addresses the needs of the human being AND the society as well…..not just one while lacking the other as in Christianity. It is not an either/Or question.

      In Islam, it is both.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “The practice of Tazkiyat al qalb wa an-Nafs (the purification of the heart and self) . . . ” is a Sufi practice that was formulated many years after Muhammad died – even scholar Tim Winter (Abdal Hakim Murad) admitted this and Paul Williams put an article on this on one of his old blogs that is no longer.


    • It’s based on the teaching of the Quran and sunnah.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ok, there is some evidence of that.
      Still, it does not seem to be an emphasis; but ok.

      On another note, but related, this passage seems to indicate a doctrine of the sin nature within man that is inherent.

      وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي ۚ إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
      Qur’an Surah 12:53

      النفس الاماره = Al Nafs – Al Amareh = the soul commanded, bent toward obeying. from a root, امر = command, order – ie, the nafs, the self, the soul is inherently bent toward evil.

      And I do not acquit myself. Indeed, the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”


    • Also:
      Qur’an Surah Yusuf 12:53
      “Nor do I absolve my own self (of blame): the (human) soul is certainly prone to evil, unless my Lord do bestow His Mercy: but surely my Lord is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

      And I do not declare myself free, most surely (man’s) self is wont to command (him to do) evil, except such as my Lord has had mercy on, surely my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful.


    • Ken,
      It’s quite the opposite. The core teachings about Heart & Soul is from Quran & Sunnah. The subject of sufism is something else to be honest.


    • Do you think Surah 12:3 teaches that humans have a sinful nature? sure seems to.


    • “the self, the soul is inherently bent toward evil”
      The verse doesn’t tell that, and please ! You have to learn Quranic idioms before you try to put your own understanding upon the verse.
      There are many dimensions for souls in Quran, and they are formulated according to you. One of them is النفس الأمارة.
      Ibn Al Qayyem has talked about that broadly in his books before grandfather was even born. Try to be humble when you deal with Quran. You have to leave the circus of David if you want your comments to be taken seriously!


    • Islam teaches that no one perfect, and each one has his portion form doing mistakes/sins. We are not perfect.
      However, it’s not like how you phrase it ” inherently bent toward evil”. No!
      Inherently, Allah has created the soul with the capability to overcome the sins. The soul is like the infant. It will grow as you feed it whether that “food” is good or bad. Therefore, “the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, (((except))) those upon which my Lord has mercy…”


  11. Williams wrote:
    What did Jesus supposedly teach about obeying the Torah in the new covenant? Reference your answer with quotes from the gospel of Matthew pleace.

    Answered above with all the parallels in Mark 10, that are parallel in Matthew 19.


    Matthew 26:26-28

    verse 28-
    for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.


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