A Series of Answers to Common Questions

Sam Shamoun


Christians believe that God inspired the entire Bible, and yet Paul admitted that not everything he wrote was inspired. For instance, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:25 that he hadn’t received any command from the Lord to write the specific instructions mentioned in that chapter, but was merely giving his own opinion. Doesn’t this passage itself disprove the Christian claim that the entire Bible is inspired?


The Revised Standard Version (RSV) reads:

"Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion (gnomen) as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy."

Paul clearly states what he writes in this passage is solely his opinion, which Muslims see as a denial of inspiration. A couple of comments are in order.

First, the Greek word translated as "opinion" comes from the Greek word gnome. The online Thayer's Greek Dictionary defines it as:

Strong's #1106: gnome

AV - judgment 3, mind 2, purpose + 1096 1, advice 1, will 1,
agree + 4160 + 3391 1; 9

1) the faculty of knowledge, mind, reason
2) that which is thought or known, one's mind
2a) view, judgment, opinion
2b) mind concerning what ought to be done
2b1) by one's self: resolve purpose, intention
2b2) by others: judgment, advice
2b3) decree

As the lexicon demonstrates, the word may mean to give a judgment, decree, view or even an opinion. In this particular context, the word is best rendered as judgment since Paul wanted to avoid giving the believers a command that had to be carried out. Paul wanted to give advice that persons could follow if they wished but did not have to.

With this in mind, it is helpful to mention that Paul was addressing the question of whether a person should get married or not in light of the crisis that the Corinthians were undergoing:

"Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." 1 Corinthians 7:26-28

Christ, while on earth, never addressed the issue of whether persons were better off staying single if there were a crisis or tribulation. But as Christ’s spokesperson Paul could address such issues since he was given Divine authority to speak on matters not addressed by the earthly Christ. After all, the Lord Jesus personally gave the disciples, specifically the apostles and prophets, the right to pass on instructions that they had either received from him while he was with them or from the Holy Spirit:

"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me." Matthew 10:40

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16:18-19

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:15-20

"Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’" Matthew 28:18-20

"I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me." John 13:20

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26

"Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also… When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." John 15:20, 26-27

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." John 16:12-13

"Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’" John 20:21-23

"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’" Acts 1:1-5

In other words, Christ’s followers were given authority to address issues and make commands that would then become binding upon all true believers.

An example of this can be found in Acts 15 and the Jerusalem council. There, the Apostles and elders convened to decide whether the Gentiles needed to observe the Mosaic commands, an issue never addressed by Christ while he was physically with them.

Their decision was that, apart from a certain few restrictions, the Gentiles were not obligated to follow the Law of Moses:

"When they finished, James spoke up: Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: ‘After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things that have been known for ages.’ It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath. Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul-men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell." Acts 15:13-29

This meant that all true believers had to now accept and follow the decisions of the Jerusalem Council. To reject their authority was to reject Christ.

With the foregoing in mind, we can see why Paul could make commands or give suggestions to the Churches seeing that Christ had commissioned him to be his Apostle to the Gentiles.

In fact, had the questioner read Paul’s statement in context s/he would have found the Apostle claiming to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak God’s revelations:

"This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words." 1 Corinthians 2:13

"In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God." 1 Corinthians 7:40

"If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I AM WRITING to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored." 1 Corinthians 14:37-38

"since you are demanding proof THAT CHRIST IS SPEAKING THROUGH ME. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you". This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority - the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down." 2 Corinthians 13:3, 10

"Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 3:2-6

Noted Evangelical Scholar and NT Commentator Craig L. Blomberg best sums up the meaning of Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 7:25 and 40:

… Verse 25b parallels the parenthesis in verse 12. In each case, Paul cannot cite a word from the earthly Jesus but believes God is inspiring him to offer reliable counsel… ‘I think that I too have the Spirit of God’ (v. 40b) does not reflect any doubt on Paul’s part but represents a slightly sarcastic aside to the Corinthians, who felt that only they had attained spiritual insight. (Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary - 1 Corinthians [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI], pp. 151, 153-4; bold emphasis ours)

Just in case some Muslims have a problem with Paul giving a suggestion instead of a clear-cut command, taking this to somehow mean that he wasn’t inspired, here are a few Quranic verses that also happen to contain "divine" suggestions and which should be just as problematic for the Muslims raising this objection:

If ye divorce them before ye have touched them and ye have appointed unto them a portion, then (pay the) half of that which ye appointed, unless they (the women) agree to forgo it, or he agreeth to forgo it in whose hand is the marriage tie. To forgo is nearer to piety. And forget not kindness among yourselves. Allah is Seer of what ye do. S. 2:237 Pickthall

And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice. And give unto the women (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then ye are welcome to absorb it (in your wealth). S. 4:3-4

They consult thee concerning women. Say: Allah giveth you decree concerning them, and the Scripture which hath been recited unto you (giveth decree), concerning female orphans and those unto whom ye give not that which is ordained for them though ye desire to marry them, and (concerning) the weak among children, and that ye should deal justly with orphans. Whatever good ye do, lo! Allah is ever Aware of it. If a woman feareth ill treatment from her husband, or desertion, it is no sin for them twain if they make terms of peace between themselves. Peace is better. But greed hath been made present in the minds (of men). If ye do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever Informed of what ye do. Ye will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives, however much ye wish (to do so). But turn not altogether away (from one), leaving her as in suspense. If ye do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. But if they separate, Allah will compensate each out of His abundance. Allah is ever All-Embracing, All-Knowing. S. 4:127-130 Pickthall cf. S. 270-271, 280; 24:60

The above texts are prescribing certain things without making them obligatory upon the believers. Thus, if such Muslim reasoning is valid then this means that not ALL of the Quran is inspired either. (Actually, none of the Quran is divinely inspired since it is not the word of the true God).

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