Did earliest Christians believe (alleged) crucifixion to be indispensable?

𝐃𝐢𝐝 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞 (𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐝) 𝐜𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐱𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞?

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


𝐀𝐧 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐛𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐝 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐱𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞!

𝐈𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐁𝐚𝐜𝐤𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐞

Paul had made it indispensable for his followers that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion is the cornerstone of Christianity. According to Paul’s doctrines, without Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice there is nothing else in Christianity:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Co 15:1-4)

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.(1 Co 15:14)

The reason why Paul gave utmost importance to the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) is because, according to Paul (not all Christians as we would soon observe), Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice was the only way for the remission of sins:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb 9:22)

Remember that before Paul preached his branded theology, Old Testament Laws had already provided enough doctrines and teachings on remission of sins and salvation; no wonder Paul pre-empted Laws by stating that they are dead:

“But before the time for faith came, the Law kept us all locked up as prisoners until this coming faith should be revealed. And so the Law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might then be put right with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge of us.” (Galatians 3: 23-25)

“Now, however, we are free from the Law, because we died to that which once held us prisoners. No longer do we serve in the old way of a written law, but in the new way of the Spirit.” (Romans 7:6)

Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version

In fact, Paul went as far as to claim that with Laws remission of sins and salvation can not be achieved:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16)

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  (Gal 3:11)

𝐅𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞, 𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭’𝐬 (𝐩𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐛𝐞 𝐮𝐩𝐨𝐧 𝐡𝐢𝐦) 𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐚𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐟 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬/𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧/𝐚𝐭𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬:

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal 2:21)

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)

On the foregoing, Paul claimed that if Christ (peace be upon him) is not allegedly crucified and raised then the sins of believers would remain – it would not be blotted out:

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Co 15:17)

𝐓𝐡𝐮𝐬, 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐮𝐦 𝐮𝐩, 𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥’𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐲 𝐢𝐬:

  • Without the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) Christianity is in vain.
  • The only mode of atonement is through the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)
  • OT Laws were allegedly rendered defunct with the arrival of Messiah (peace be upon him)…
  • …it is because if observation of OT Laws provided salvation then Messiah’s (peace be upon him) precious and “perfect” sacrifice is worthless.
  • Thus, conclusively, it is only the perfect (alleged) sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) which brings salvation and remission of sins.

So far so good, however, notice that it is only Paul who is preaching; he was not the only “apostle” preaching about Christianity – there were other stalwarts as well, like James.

In fact when we read James’ preaching (through his epistles) then he over and over again contravened Paul on key and very basic doctrines of Christianity.

James even contradicted Paul on the indispensability of the alleged crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him)! Consider the following passage, for instance:

“Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put in into practice. Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks closely into PERFECT LAW THAT SETS PEOPLE FREE, who keeps on paying attention to it, but puts it into practice â€“ that person will be blessed by God in what he does. (James 1: 22-25, Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version)

Now please ponder with a neutral mind. If indeed Paul’s assertions would have been a universal representation of Christian doctrines, in other words, if Paul’s doctrines would have been the only theology in Christianity, then, James would have echoed with Paul that: emancipation comes ONLY by the alleged “blood of Christ”, man can never be justified with the

works of the Laws on the contrary, he would “fall from grace”, Christ’s (peace be upon him) “perfect” sacrifice has obviated the observance of the Laws, on the foregoing, if anyone follows the Laws even after Messiah’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion then the alleged “perfect” sacrifice would be wasted so on and so forth.

However, contrary to all of the above, James postulates that Christian believers have to follow the Laws of the Old Testament to “set themselves free”, in other words, to emancipate themselves from their sins! He exhorts his disciples to not merely read the Laws but put them into practice for the remission of their sins.

𝐇𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐮𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞:

(I) Did not James know that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged “perfect” sacrifice has been offered which is more than enough, if not the only mode of remission of sins?

(II) Did not James know that with Christ (peace be upon him) the Laws which “sets people free” have come to an end?

(III) More importantly, did not James know that if Laws would “set people free” then Paul’s “lord and savior’s” precious sacrifice would be rendered “vain”? Refer to Gal 2:21, 5:4.

It would be disrespectful to the knowledge of the “apostle” James that he did not know all of the above. That being the case, the only logical inference to be made is: James either, did not consider Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion the only way of emancipation or perfect enough to “set people free”! It is because even after Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion,

if James who is no less than Paul if not more than him, claims that Christians need to observe Laws that “set people free” – then it means besides Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice, Laws were also potent enough to emancipate people.

Acknowledging the obvious problems and contradiction with James’ doctrines, Christians Scholars have come out with weird and desperate, if not disrespectful and belittling, commentaries imputing that James did not have apostolic authority and that his preaching was not meant for Christians (!!??).

The Epistle of James is not addressed to the assembly and does not take the ground of apostolic authority over the persons to whom it is sent. It is a practical exhortation which still recognises the twelve tribes and the connection of the Christian Jews with them, as John addressed the Gentiles, although the Jewish people had their place before God.

Thus the Spirit of God still acknowledges here the relationship with Israel, as in the other case the relationship with Gentiles, and the rights of God which are unchangeable, whatever may be the special privileges granted to the assembly or to Israel respectively. We know that historically the Christian Jews remained Jews to the end of the New Testament history, and were even zealous for the law — to us a strange thing, but which God endured for a time. (John Darby’s Synopsis, James 1:1-27)

Observe very assiduously the important last sentence in the commentary. Notice that Darby makes two assertions:

(A)  Earliest Christians remained Jews, in other words, they remained loyal to OT Laws and subsequently doctrines promulgated by James.

(B)   To all those who follow Paul’s preached Christianity, James’ preaching comes as a “strange thing”.

Both the above observations have very strong implications:

The first observation, namely 

(A), implies that the majority, if not all, of earliest Christians (including James and other “apostles”) believed that even after the so-called “perfect”, precious, and Law-ending sacrifice (alleged) of Messiah (peace be upon him),

Old Testament Laws were viable and potent enough as an alternative mode besides the alleged sacrifice to “set people free”. Thus, the majority, if not all, earliest Christians did not believe that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice was the only way of emancipation and that without it there could not be any remission of sins.

Secondly, that is observation 

(B) implies and further corroborates that indeed James’ doctrines were not in line with popular Christian doctrines, if not contradictory to Paul’s doctrines, otherwise it would not have engendered a “strange” reaction in John Darby – a follower of Paul’s doctrines.

Rather than exclaiming on James’ doctrines, Christians need to reconsider each position (that of James and Paul) because who knows James and all of earliest Christians would have had a similar “strange” reaction had they seen Christians of Paul’s thoughts.

𝐌𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐟𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞

James was not merely preaching but his actions proved that he and the earliestChristians did not believed the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) to be imperative and the only mode of salvation.

James and his colleagues in the Church of Jerusalem continued to practice Old Testament Laws and rituals including SIN – OFFERING! In fact what is more ironical is that they made Paul the leader of the OT rituals – the very same person who was championing that OT Laws had been rendered dead with Jesus (peace be upon him), Christ’s (peace be upon him) “perfect” sacrifice (alleged) sacrifice has obviated any need of observance of OT Laws, so on and so forth:

“When we arrived in Jerusalem, the believers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to see James; and all the church elders were present. Paul greeted them and gave a complete report of everything that God had done among the Gentiles through his work. After hearing him, they all praised God.

Then they said, Brother Paul, you can see how many thousands of Jews have become believers, and how devoted they all are to the Law. They have been told that you have been teaching all the Jews who live in Gentile countries to abandon the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or follow Jewish customs. They are sure to hear that you have arrived. What should be done, then? This is what we want you to do.

There are four men here who have taken a vow. Go along with them and join them in the ceremony of purification and pay their expenses; then they will be able to shave their heads. In this way, everyone will know that there is no truth in any of the things that they have been told about you,

but that you yourself life in accordance with the Law of Moses. But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent them a letter telling them we decided that they must not eat any food that has been offered to idols, or any blood, or any animal that has been strangled, and that they must keep themselves from sexual immorality. 

So Paul took the men and the next day performed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple and gave notice of how many days it would be until the end of the period of purification when a sacrifice would be offered for each one of them. (Acts 21: 17-26. Today’s English Version)

The above ritual is the core Old Testament system found in the Book of Numbers which symbolized forgiveness and remission of sins:

“When a Nazirite completes his vow, he shall perform the ritual. He shall go to the entrance of the Tent and present to the LORD three animals without any defects: a one-year-old male lamb for a burnt offering, a one-year-old ewe lamb for a sin-offering, and a ram for a fellowship offering.” (Numbers 6: 13-14, Today’s English Version)

𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨 𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐎𝐓 𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐮𝐚𝐥 𝐚𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐨𝐟 𝐍𝐮𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐩 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐭 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐥𝐮𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐒𝐈𝐍 – 𝐎𝐅𝐅𝐄𝐑𝐈𝐍𝐆𝐒:

“And be at charge with them – Share with them the expense of the offerings required when the vow is completed. Those offerings were a ram of a year old for a burnt offering, a sheep of the same age for sin-offering, a ram for a thank-offering, a basket of unleavened cakes, and a libation of wine.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Acts 21:24)

𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐢𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐨𝐟 𝐀𝐜𝐭𝐬:

(I) If James and his colleagues in the Jerusalem Church indeed believed like Paul that Christ (peace be upon him) has allegedly paid the most precious remission for their sins then why did they offer “sin-offering”?

(II) On the foregoing, if James and others believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) brought the Laws to an end then why did they at all care for the rituals of the Book of Numbers – an OT Law?

(III) Why did Paul contradict his own teachings by not merely partaking but leading and even paying for the OT Laws and its rituals

a) Did he forget that his “lord and savior’s” has brought to an end what he was executing?

b) Did not he have any scruple that by the mere “useless” and “outward rule” he would gain nothing but on the contrary, Christ’s (peace be upon him) precious (alleged) sacrifice would be rendered “vain”?

c) On what basis did “apostle” Paul partake in the “purification ceremony”? Was not Paul inspired enough to know that the sins of believers were purged with the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)?

d) In fact by partaking in the ceremony, Paul jeopardized his salvation since he previously claimed (c.f. 1 Co 15:17) that if Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice did not provide salvation then the faith is in vain and sins remain!

The very reason that James and the majority of earliest Christians still believed in the viability of OT laws and its rituals, especially, when it included SIN – OFFERINGin it, sends more than a message that although they might have respected the alleged sacrifice they did not consider it to be the only mode of salvation or perfect enough!

In fact, there are numerous Jamesian verses which lend support to the notion that James and his colleagues did not believe faith in alleged crucifixion complete enough for salvation because James strongly exhorted (to the point of contravening Paul) his followers to complement faith with the works of the Laws (as contrary to Paul’s faith-only doctrine):

“My brother, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers and sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.” (James 2: 14-17)

“But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” Do : You believe that there is only one God? Good!The demons also believe – and tremble with fear. You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless?” (James 2: 18-20)


On one hand, we have Paul and his doctrines which enjoins Christian believers that after Christ (peace be upon him) OT Laws were rendered ineffective and the only mode of remission of sins and salvation is through the alleged cross of Christ (peace be upon him). Nevertheless, this notion was not entirely accepted by the earliest Christians as a whole including contemporary apostles.

Even after Christ’s alleged perfect and precious sacrifice, James emphatically preached that Christians need to observe the OT Laws because it “sets people free” – once again James was preaching this after Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion.

In fact, James wrote multiple passages just to defend the notion that mere faith in Christ and the alleged cross would not suffice, it has to be complemented by the works of the Laws!

James and the earliest Christians, even after the alleged crucifixion of Christ (peace be upon him), not merely observed the first ten moral commandments but even observed the OT rituals punctiliously – the same rituals which Paul imputed to be “useless” and merely “outward rules”. What is even interesting is that these rituals even included SIN-OFFERING in the form of sacrifice of animals which specifically meant to remit sins!

It does not end here, Paul who was hitherto championing the inefficacy of OT Laws and their “uselessness” and plasticity (“outward rules”) was found not merely observing OT rituals but even leading and bearing the expenses of it! Thus, either contradicting himself and his “divinely inspired inspirations” or establishing that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion is not imperative enough!

Even after all of James’ otherwise preaching, if more popular Christianity wants to do away with Jamesian epistles then they need to justify why they trump James to Paul. Remember, James was the one who met Jesus (peace be upon him) in person – not Paul. Therefore, if James is not greater than Paul then he is, at least, no less either, and in this scenario there needs to be strong enough grounds to reject James to Paul.

Related Articles:

End Notes:

  • Emphasize wherever not matching with the original, is ours.
  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical text is taken from King James Version, e-Sword Version.