The Challenge

Did Paul distort the Torah?

As we were perusing the web we discovered a website run by a Muslim named Illias Suttar ( After reviewing his material we discovered a series of exchanges with both Christians and Qadianis (Ahmadiyyas) where Mr. Suttar invited certain individuals from these sects to answer his challenge regarding the blessed Apostle Paul’s alleged "distortion" of the Jewish Torah. He wrote:

Dear Nasir, MY CHALLENGE to Christianity WAS and is VERY SIMPLE:-

"I have ONLY asked the Christians to SHOW TO ME the verse of Deuteronomy (21:22,23) printed by the JEWS wherein is mentioned that "Anyone who is hanged on a tree is under God’s Curse"……….. Rs.100,000/- reward has also been offered." (Source)

To read the exchanges that went back and forth between these parties please consult the following links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. You can also access them here.

After trying to carefully review his arguments we have understood (hopefully correctly) that Mr. Suttar’s challenge is based on the following points:

1.   That Paul said that Christ was cursed because he hung on the tree, which implies that it is the hanging itself which makes the person accursed. In the words of Mr. Suttar:

Dearest Sultan, what has happened to you? According to St. Paul "he that is hanged is accursed of God".

So according to St. Paul, cursing STARTS with hanging.

According to what you have quoted above, it is:- "Cursing of God ENDS in hanging".

NOTE: Also please note that hanging takes place AFTER death, and not BEFORE death. (Source)

2.   That the texts of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 do not say that persons hanging on trees are accursed of God. In other words, Mr. Suttar believes that these passages are not saying that God curses the person that is hanged on a tree.

3.   That the citations are actually stating that only the land itself will be cursed if the person remains hanging after evening. Notice his comments carefully:

The Good News Bible (1977) Printed by Christians themselves gives a VERY CLEAR PICTURE of where the CURSE falls.

Deuteronomy 21 / 22; 23 (Good News Bible)

"(22) If a man has been put to death for a crime and his body is hung on a post, (23) it is not to remain there overnight.  It must be buried the same day, because a DEAD BODY hanging on a post BRINGS God’s Curse ON the LAND.  Bury the body, so that you will not defile the land""

A VERY IMPORTANT OBSERVATION -----------(from SOME Christian Bibles)
Even in ALL SIX quotes of Christian Bibles GIVEN by Sultan Qureshi on 5-12-2002, IT IS CLEARLY mentioned that the man is (1) First put to death (2) Secondly his dead body is hanged on a tree




(1)  The curse is on the land and not on the man

(2)  Mr. Hanif Motiwala adds: The curse on the land is ONLY if the corpse remains on the stake OVERNIGHT___ Jesus was not on the cross during the night (he was on the cross only during the day-time). So the curse was NEITHER on the man NOR on the land.

So how St. Paul says in Galatians 3/13 : "BUT BY becoming a curse for us Christ…….." (Source)

We now turn our attention to carefully analyzing what all these biblical references are actually stating so as to see if Mr. Suttar’s points have any validity.

The Challenge Answered

First, let us read what Paul wrote in context:

"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law; for ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’; but the law does not rest on faith, for ‘He who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree’ – that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Galatians 3:10-14 RSV

Here is the text Paul cited from, as it appears in a Christian translation of the Hebrew Bible:

"And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man IS ACCURSED by God; you shall not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance." Deuteronomy 21:22-23 RSV

Since the gentleman wanted proof from Jewish translations of the Hebrew Torah, we give him that:

"And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged IS A REPROACH unto G-d; that thou defile not thy land which HaShem thy G-d giveth thee for an inheritance." Jewish Publication Society (JPS) (Source)

When a man is legally sentenced to death and executed, you must then hang him on a gallows. However, you may not allow his body to remain on the gallows overnight, but you must bury it on the same day. Since a person who has been hanged IS A CURSE to God, you must not [let it] defile the land that God your Lord is giving you as a heritage. The Living Torah by Aryeh Kaplan (Source)

Kaplan’s note says:

a curse to God
(literally). Or, 'an extraordinarily great curse' (Adereth Eliahu; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). (Source)

The following is a translation made from the Dead Sea Scrolls version of Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

[When someone is convicted of capital offense and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his body must not remain all night on the tree, but you shall indeed bury him that same day. For anyone who is hanged is under God’s curse; you must not defile your land which the Lord yo]ur [God] is giving [to] you [as an inheritance]. (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible - The Oldest Known Bible Translated For the First Time Into English, translated with commentary by Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich [Harper San Francisco - A Division of Harper Collins Publishers 1999, hardcover], p. 176; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And here is an English translation of an ancient version of the Hebrew Bible translated by the Jews into the Greek language:

"And if there be sin in any one, and the judgment of death be upon him, and he be put to death, and ye hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but ye shall by all means bury it in that day; for every one that is hanged on a tree IS CURSED of God; and ye shall by no means defile the land which the Lord thy God gives thee for an inheritance." Septuagint (LXX)

Moreover, the word translated "accursed," "reproach," "curse," comes from the Hebrew qalalah and appears in the following texts:

"Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of HaShem your G-d, which I command you this day; and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of HaShem your G-d, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. And it shall come to pass, when HaShem thy G-d shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt set the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal." Deuteronomy 11:26-29 JPS (Source)

"because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Aram-naharaim, to curse thee." Deuteronomy 23:5 JPS (Source)

"and these shall stand upon mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali." Deuteronomy 27:13 JPS (Source)

"But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of HaShem thy G-d, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee." Deuteronomy 28:15 JPS (Source)

"And all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou didst not hearken unto the voice of HaShem thy G-d, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded thee." Deuteronomy 28:45 JPS (Source)

"therefore the anger of HaShem was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curse that is written in this book;" Deuteronomy 29:26 JPS (Source)

"And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt bethink thyself among all the nations, whither HaShem thy G-d hath driven thee," Deuteronomy 30:1 JPS (Source)

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;" Deuteronomy 30:19 JPS (Source)

With the foregoing behind us we can now focus on the meaning of the text. What Deuteronomy 21:23 is saying is that because the man hanging on the tree is cursed he must, therefore, be taken down before evening lest the accursed bring defilement upon the land. What this basically implies is that the man was found guilty and came under God’s curse which resulted in his death and subsequent hanging. The public hanging of the criminal served as a sign that the person had come under God’s curse, his judgment.

Putting it simply, the hanging is not what curses the person, but rather it is because the person came under God’s curse that he was then put to death and subsequently hanged.

This was Paul’s point regarding Christ’s crucifixion. Christ suffered judicial consequences as a result of becoming our sin-bearer, our substitute:

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24

The Hebrew Bible says that a person who fails to obey God’s Law, which is what sin is, shall be accursed:

"‘Cursed be he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" Deuteronomy 27:26 RSV

"The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not heed the words of this covenant which I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, that I may perform the oath which I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.’ Then I answered, ‘So be it, LORD.’" Jeremiah 11:1-5 RSV

"Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness." 1 John 3:4 RSV

Hence, Jesus took the curse brought upon by our violation of God’s commands in order to satisfy God’s justice and to make restitution, thereby guaranteeing our salvation and forgiveness:

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law." Romans 3:21-28 RSV

"Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation." Romans 5:9-11 RSV

Splitting Hairs

Mr. Suttar tries to split hairs when he says in one of his correspondences:

MY ACTUAL CHALLENGE was not just to show in Torah that a hanged person is cursed of God but my CHALLENGE was to show the verse in TORAH printeD by the Jews.

You have quoted 6 CHRISTIAN PRINTS OF TORAH on 5-12-02 as follows:-

(1) Cursed of God (2) Cursed by God (3) Accursed of God (4) Accursed of God (5) Under God’s Curse (6) Under God’s Curse

BUT the JEWISH prints of Torah quoted by YOU are as follows:

(1) Curse of God (your email dated 6th January 2003)
(2) Curse to God (your email dated 5-12-2002)
(3) affront to God (your email dated 25-11-2002)

How on earth YOU feel that Christian version of "cursed of God" means the same as curse of God or curse to God? (Source)

What we would like to know is how do the differences in translation affect the meaning of the text, or impugn the Christian translation? Is Mr. Suttar really claiming that the translation "curse of God" does not have the same meaning as "cursed of God?" Does he actually think that by saying that the person hanging on a tree is a curse or an affront to God somehow implies a completely different meaning from saying that the hanged person is cursed of God?

Since he really seems to believe this it therefore becomes necessary for us to show him that all these texts basically convey the same thought, i.e. that the reason why the person was hanged was because he had become an abomination, an affront, a curse to God. To put it simply, the person is a curse of and to God when he or she becomes an accursed thing. In other words, all these renderings are basically pointing out that God curses the person who ends up hanging.

To even make this simpler and break it down further, note that:

  1. "Cursed of God" means that a person has come under God’s curse.
  2. "Curse of God" means that the person has become the object of God’s curse, and basically conveys the same idea as the above.
  3. "Curse to God" means that the person has become something abominable in God’s sight. Yet to be an abomination in God’s sight essentially means that the person has come under God’s curse, that he was cursed by God.
  4. "Affront to God" means that the person has become abominable in God’ sight, and basically conveys the same idea that "curse to God" does.

It is therefore rather obvious, at least to us, that Mr. Suttar is simply grasping at straws since his points carry absolutely no validity whatsoever.

Sam Shamoun

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