Bassam Zawadi accuses the Apostle Paul of admitting that he used craftiness. He cites 2 Corinthians 12:16 and says:
2 Corinthians 12:16
Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty (panourgos) fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery (dolos)!
Paul refers to himself as a 'crafty' fellow. The word in Greek is panourgos, which could mean...
1) skilful, clever
a) in a good sense, fit to undertake and accomplish anything, dexterous, wise, sagacious, skilful
b) in a bad sense, crafty, cunning, knavish, treacherous, deceitful
Obviously Christians will tend to go for definition 'a', which states that it is cleverness in a good sense. However, when we read the rest of the verse...
Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty (panourgos) fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery (dolos)!
The word for trickery here is dolos, which could mean...
After citing verses showing how these words are used negatively he concludes:
As we can see this word is always being used negatively. This is the very thing that Paul claimed to have done. Does this make Paul guilty of deception? Jesus himself says in Mark 7:22 that it is a sin and that it is something that makes someone unclean from inside (verse 23).
What Zawadi didnt mention to his readers is that in this very epistle Paul goes out of his way to deny that he used lies or deception:
"For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you." 2 Corinthians 1:12
"For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ." 2 Corinthians 2:17
"but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by PURITY, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; BY TRUTHFUL SPEECH, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, AND YET ARE TRUE; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything." 2 Corinthians 6:4-10
"Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one." 2 Corinthians 7:2
"but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, NOT WALKING IN CRAFTINESS (panourgia) or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." 2 Corinthians 4:2 NASB
Note that in the last text Paul clearly denies having walked in or used craftiness! And Paul writes in another epistle:
"For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive (doloo), but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Here, Paul even denies that he used dolos!
These passages should have given Zawadi a hint that he may have misunderstood something here. In light of the foregoing let us now look at the immediate context of 2 Corinthians 12 to get the bigger picture:
"I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong! Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty and got the better of you by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps? Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish--that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. 2 Corinthians 12:11-21
The context shows that Paul was using sarcasm and a touch of irony since in this epistle Paul was dealing with accusations raised against him by some opponents who had influenced the believers at Corinth to doubt the Apostles sincerity. This point comes out more clearly in the chapters which precede and follow chapter 12:
"I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!-- I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ's, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ's, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. FOR THEY SAY, His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account. Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. We were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." 2 Corinthians 10:1-18
"For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God's gospel to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds." 2 Corinthians 11:5-15
"This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them-- since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? --unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong--not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down." 2 Corinthians 13:1-10
Paul was not admitting to his opponents claims, but was reprimanding the Corinthians for believing these slanderous lies about him when they should have known better and been the ones defending him. This is why virtually all commentators agree that Paul was using sarcasm and irony in 2 Corinthians 12:16 in order to embarrass the Corinthians for believing the slanders raised against him:
I did not myself burden you (egw ou katebarhsa umaß). First aorist active of late verb katabarew, to press a burden down on one. Only here in N.T. Crafty (panourgoß). Old word from pan, all, and ergo, to do anything (good or bad). Good sense is skilful, bad sense cunning. Only here in N.T. and Paul is quoting the word from his enemies. With guile (dolwi). Instrumental case of doloß, bait to catch fish with. The enemies of Paul said that he was raising this big collection for himself. Moffatt has done well to put these charges in quotation marks to make it plain to readers that Paul is ironical. (Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament; online source; underline emphasis ours)
But be it so, I did not burden you
These words are not spoken by the apostle in his own person of himself, but in the person of his adversaries, and contain a concession and an objection of theirs, but be it so; they granted that he had not burdened the Corinthians, that he had took nothing of them himself for preaching the Gospel; they owned that he had preached it freely; this was so clear a point, and so flagrant a case, that they could not deny it; yet they insinuated to the Corinthians, and objected to the apostle, that though he did not receive anything from them with his own hands, yet he craftily and cunningly made use of others to drain their purses, and receive it for him; and which is suggested in the next clause:
nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile;
so say the false apostles of me; for these are not the words of the apostle in his own person; nor to be understood of any spiritual craft, or lawful cunning and prudent artifices used by him, to allure and draw the Corinthians into a good liking and opinion of the Gospel and of his ministry, and so caught them, and was the happy means of their conversion; but they are spoken in the person of the false apostles, charging him with a wicked and criminal craftiness, by making use of other persons in a sly underhanded way, to get this church's money, when he pretended to preach the Gospel freely; to which he answers in the next verse. (John Gills Exposition of the Bible; online source; underline emphasis ours)
Now let us see who truly is a liar and deceiver:
But they (the Jews) were crafty, and God was crafty, for God is the best of crafty ones! When God said, 'O Jesus! I will make Thee die and take Thee up again to me and will clear thee of those who misbelieve, and will make those who follow thee above those who misbelieve, at the day of judgment, then to me is your return. I will decide between you concerning that wherein ye disagree. S. 3:54-55 Palmer
Are they then secure from Allah's scheme? None deemeth himself secure from Allah's scheme save folk that perish. S. 7:99 Pickthall
And when those who misbelieve were crafty with thee to detain thee a prisoner, or kill thee, or drive thee forth; they were crafty, but God was crafty too, for God is best of crafty ones! S. 8:30 Palmer
So they schemed a scheme: and We schemed a scheme, while they perceived not. S. 27:50
The word for crafty is makr. Dr. Mahmoud M. Ayoub in his book, The Quran and Its Interpreters, Vol. II, The House of Imran, brings up the question of "how the word makr (scheming or plotting), which implies deceitfulness or dishonesty, could be attributed to God." (Ibid. [1992 State University of New York Press, Albany], p. 165; bold emphasis ours)
After listing several Muslim sources, he quotes ar-Razi as saying that "scheming (makr) is actually an act of deception aiming at causing evil. It is not possible to attribute deception to God. Thus the word is one of the muttashabihat [multivalent words of the Quran]." (Ibid., p. 166; bold and italic emphasis ours)
According to Ayoub, there was one Muslim who actually boasted in Allah being the best conniver, deceiver, schemer etc.,
Qurtubi observes that some scholars have considered the words "best of schemers" to be one of Gods beautiful names. Thus one would pray, "O Best of Schemers, scheme for me!" Qurtubi also reports that the Prophet used to pray, "O God, scheme for me, and do not scheme against me!" (Qurtubi, IV, pp. 98-99; cf. Zamakhshari, I, p. 366). (Ibid., p. 166)
Moreover, here is how one of the earliest sources on the life of Muhammad interpreted Q. 8:30:
Then he reminds the apostle of His favour towards him when the people plotted against him 'to kill him, or to wound him, or to drive him out; and they plotted and God plotted, and is the best of plotters.' i.e. I DECEIVED them with My firm GUILE so that I delivered you from them. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], p. 323; capital emphasis ours)
Zawadi may try to argue that specific words such as makr do not have their normal meaning when used of Allah. The problem with this explanation is that the Quran provides examples showing that makr when used for Allah carries its normal meaning, implying that Allah is indeed a deceiver and a liar. For example, Allah deceived mankind into thinking that Jesus was crucified when in fact he wasnt (cf. Sura 4:157).
Zawadi may try to further claim that Allah only tricks unbelievers, which isnt evil since they deserve what they get. For instance, Allah was right in tricking the Jews who wanted to kill Jesus since this is what they deserved for trying to crucify him. There are several problems with this claim. First, irrespective of the circumstances, it is beneath an infinitely holy God to adopt the same deceptive tactics of evildoers. Second, it wasnt simply those who sought to crucify Jesus who had been tricked, but all his followers and friends as well. They all thought he was crucified. In addition, generations of Christian believers afterwards are punished into this unbelief for no fault of their own. It doesnt only affect the evildoers.
This leads me to my next point. Allah doesnt simply deceive unbelievers, but believers as well. The Quran provides an example of Allah deceiving the Muslims:
When Allah showed them to you in your dream as few; and if He had shown them to you as many you would certainly have become weak-hearted and you would have disputed about the matter, but Allah saved (you); surely He is the Knower of what is in the breasts. And when He showed them to you, when you met, as few in your eyes and He made you to appear little in their eyes, in order that Allah might bring about a matter which was to be done, and to Allah are all affairs returned. S. 8:43-44 Shakir
Allah is said to have shown the opposing fighting forces as few to Muhammad since, if he had shown him their actual numbers, the Muslims would have been afraid to fight. Hence, Allah had to use deception in order to encourage Muslims to fight in his cause. The late Abdullah Yusuf Ali notes:
The Muslim army, though they knew their worldly disadvantage, did not realise the full odds against them. The Meccans came exulting in any case, and they despised the contemptible little force opposed to them. Even though they thought the Muslim force was twice as great as it was (iii. 13), still this number was contemptible, when taken with its poor equipment. Both these psychological mistakes subserved the main Plan, which was to bring the matter to a decisive issue, whether the Pagans of Mecca were to continue their arrogant oppression, of the religion of God was to be established in freedom and honour. (Ali, The Holy Quran, Translation and Commentary, p. 426, fn. 1214; underlined emphasis ours)
Muhammad did not hesitate to use deception, especially when it helped him to murder his opponents:
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah
Allah's Apostle said, "Who is willing to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, "O Allah's Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab)." The Prophet said, "You may say it." Then Muhammad bin Maslama went to Kab and said, "That man (i.e. Muhammad) demands Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) from us, and he has troubled us, and I have come to borrow something from you." On that, Kab said, "By Allah, you will get tired of him!" Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Now as we have followed him, we do not want to leave him unless and until we see how his end is going to be. Now we want you to lend us a camel load or two of food." (Some difference between narrators about a camel load or two.) Kab said, "Yes, (I will lend you), but you should mortgage something to me." Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion said, "What do you want?" Ka'b replied, "Mortgage your women to me." They said, "How can we mortgage our women to you and you are the most handsome of the 'Arabs?" Ka'b said, "Then mortgage your sons to me." They said, "How can we mortgage our sons to you? Later they would be abused by the people's saying that so-and-so has been mortgaged for a camel load of food. That would cause us great disgrace, but we will mortgage our arms to you." Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion promised Kab that Muhammad would return to him. He came to Kab at night along with Kab's foster brother, Abu Na'ila. Kab invited them to come into his fort, and then he went down to them. His wife asked him, "Where are you going at this time?" Kab replied, "None but Muhammad bin Maslama and my (foster) brother Abu Na'ila have come." His wife said, "I hear a voice as if dripping blood is from him." Ka'b said, "They are none but my brother Muhammad bin Maslama and my foster brother Abu Naila. A generous man should respond to a call at night even if invited to be killed." Muhammad bin Maslama went with two men. (Some narrators mention the men as 'Abu bin Jabr, Al Harith bin Aus and Abbad bin Bishr). So Muhammad bin Maslama went in together with two men, and said to them, "When Ka'b comes, I will touch his hair and smell it, and when you see that I have got hold of his head, strip him. I will let you smell his head." Kab bin Al-Ashraf came down to them wrapped in his clothes, and diffusing perfume. Muhammad bin Maslama said, "I have never smelt a better scent than this." Ka'b replied, "I have got the best Arab women who know how to use the high class of perfume." Muhammad bin Maslama requested Ka'b, "Will you allow me to smell your head?" Ka'b said, "Yes." Muhammad smelt it and made his companions smell it as well. Then he requested Ka'b again, "Will you let me (smell your head)?" Ka'b said, "Yes." When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said (to his companions), "Get at him!" So they killed him and went to the Prophet and informed him. (Abu Rafi) was killed after Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 369)
It is little wonder that Muhammad is reported to have said:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle called: "War is deceit". (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 268)
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
The Prophet said, "War is deceit." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 269)
The dictionary entry on LYING presents a more detailed discussion on the topic, and gives evidence that lying and deception is explicitly permitted to further the advance of Islam.
The foregoing conclusively proves that it is Allah and his messenger who are the liars and deceivers, not the blessed Apostle Paul.
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