St. Paul and The Mahdi
St. Paul experience is not completely alien to Muslims, although we look at it in a rather different light. Many Muslims say they see in their sleep, visions of the prophet Muhammad peace and blessing upon him. Some of them are very righteous people who are not known for being liars. Some even went to claim a special status as a Mahdi (Guided one).
These visions have generally been understood to be a private matter for the individual concerned. It does not give him/ her any special authority to add to or interpret the revelation of the Allah in the Quran or the saying of the prophet. Visions granted to ordinary people, do not transform their words/ opinions or writing to Holy scriptures from God. We need to look at what they say, and if it conform to the message delivered by the Messengers of God, and the eternal message of God, then we can take it on board as Their contribution.
There is a major difference between Muhammad pbuh and St Paul: Muhammad said he was a messenger of God sent to Mankind, who received a revelation in the same tradition of the prophets before him, including Jesus, i.e. through an angel sent by God who spoke with him, or via vision/inspiration of events, or God -unseen- speaking to him. He was given specific instructions by God to deliver to the people.
St. Paul, on the other hand, only said he was interpreting the message and live of Christ. He said he saw visions of Christ, and never claimed he was a messenger of God. His role is comparable to those who claimed to be the Mahdi, saying they see visions of the prophet Muhammad pbuh.
My view on those visions (from Both Faiths) is that they simply have no authority what so ever. Their legitimacy or otherwise is determined solely by how consistent they are with the teaching of the prophets of God from Noah until Muhammad, and including Jesus the Christ, peace be upon them.
Of prime importance to me is what I call ‘the principle of The homogeneity of the message of God‘. If a particular person is preaching a message that is wholly compatible with the eternal message of God delivered by all his messengers, then I listen and take note of what he says. This eternal message can be summarised in:
- The Worship and obedience to God Almighty, the Most High,
- The banishing of worship to idols, angels, people.
- The belief in the messengers of God and his angels as servants to God The One, Most High creator of everything,
- The belief in the resurrection and Last day, when everyone will be held accountable for his deeds in this life.
- The importance of BOTH: correct belief in God AND the righteous deeds and avoidance of sin in order to attain salvation from Hell.
This was the message of all the prophets including Christ, and also the message of prophet Muhammad peace be upon them all. I am not convinced that this is what St Paul preached. I find for example a difference between his teachings on:
- His views on salvation are different from the words of Jesus and also those of James. Moreover, they go against the principles of justice and personal accountability.
- His interpretation of the crucifixion was something that he invented and was not attested to by Jesus before the incident itself.
- His teachings on taking the message to the gentiles contradicted the words of Jesus before the alleged crucifixion.
- As soon as he had the vision, he said he went to Arabia, without learning from the people who lived with Jesus all his life (At best, it is said he spent only two weeks with them although he contradicts this elsewhere in his writings).
I think that one of the root causes of some of the textual problems in the New Testament is discrepancy between the Pauline theology and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Over the years, scribes have found it necessary to harmonize the text.
This is a very interesting post which gives numerous examples where scribes felt the need to harmonize.
St. Paul had made an effort to interpret the events surrounding the life of Jesus and his words. I don’t think he claimed an exclusive right to interpret the life of Jesus, but somehow, his writings were to define Christianity. You have the right to believe those interpretations, but I need some convincing that they were compatible with the teachings of Jesus and the prophets of God before him.