Muslims such as Paul Bilal Williams and Shabir Ally love to quote Mark 10:17-22, but they always leave out verses 23-27; and they cannot deal with the context of the passage and verses 23-27, since those verses provide the solution of the argument that they are trying to make, when they are arguing that Jesus taught salvation by keeping the commandments and giving to the poor.
Muslims like Mark 10:17-22 for two reasons:
1. They think that Jesus is denying His Deity by asking the rich young ruler, “Why do you call Me good? Only God is good.” Jesus is not denying that He is God, rather Jesus is saying, “If you recognize Me as good, and only God is good; then you should recognize Me as God.” See also here, where Richard Bauckham, a scholar that Muslims love to use, and cherry pick quotes from, actually agrees that Jesus is using a “wonderful double entendre” argument and actually affirming His Deity.
2. Muslims think Jesus is teaching that one can be saved by keeping the commandments or giving money to the poor. Verses 23-27 show that Jesus did not intend the man nor us to understand Him as saying that a person can actually keep the commandments and earn salvation. Jesus is rather using the law to expose the man’s hypocrisy and idolatry in his heart. The man boasts that he kept the second table of the law, and Jesus does not say, “excellent, you are perfectly righteous and have kept the commands”, no. Jesus humors the man and says, “one thing you lack, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor”. Jesus knows the man is worshiping his money and possessions in his heart, and so He asks him to do this in order to expose his idolatry in his heart. So, the man did not keep the first and second commandment, because his god was his money. John McArthur has 2 excellent sermons the first one on Mark 10:17-22 here on this passage; and the second one here on verses 23-31.
The rich young ruler was also a liar, deceiving himself that he could actually keep the commandments, so he had broken the 9th commandment. And every man has violated the 7th commandment in their heart by lusting after someone else – Matthew 5:27-30 and every man has violated the 6th commandment in their heart by anger, hatred, and calling people names. Jesus probes and gets to the root of sins. (see also Mark 7:20-23, where Jesus says that it is the evil thoughts in the heart, on the inside, that cause external sins to take place.) Islam focuses on external sins and does not deal with the root sins. To be fair, there are some verses in the Qur’an and Hadith that talk about internal sins, but it is not an over-riding emphasis in Islam to deal with evil thoughts and pride, sinful anger, sexual lusts, vengence, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, greed, etc. The emphasis in Islam is the external Sharia law in society, obeying the authorities and one’s parents and doing the rituals of Islam, and being a good moral moral for society.
Recently I asked Paul Bilal Williams several times, over several days, and at several posts, at his blog ( no longer there) about Mark 10:23-27, but he refused to even try to answer those verses, and then soon afterward, put his blog into “private” mode. It could be that Paul Williams had other reasons for going into private mode, but it sure looks like it was because he could not answer my questions, nor deal with Mark 10:23-27. What is he afraid of? I wonder. I wonder if he will re-arrange posts and delete some of our conversations in the comboxes.
17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “ Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
Jesus, in Mark 10:27, teaches that men/man-kind/people (ανθρωποις – plural – men, people. Anthropois = where we get “Anthropology” from – “the study of mankind” ) cannot save themselves by good works or by their efforts or giving to the poor. Jesus says it is “impossible” (αδυνατον). This is consistent with the writings of the apostle Paul (Galatians 2:16; 2:21; the whole book and argument of Galatians; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16; 5:1-11; Philippians 3:9; Ephesians 2:8-9), and the apostle John (John 1:12; 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:29; 8:24; 11:25; 20:30-31) “with men it is impossible” – no one can saved themselves by their own efforts or good works, “but not with God, for all things are possible with God.” The whole NT message is that God saves people by His grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Romans 4:1-16), in Christ alone. (John 3:18; 3:36; 14:6, Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13-15).
The New Testament is vindicated as one unity by teaching the same basic message. Mark and Matthew agree with Paul and John and all the other NT books/writers. It is wrong for Muslims to use liberal redaction criticism and cherry pick from scholars like Richard Bauckham to try and create layers of editing of the NT books. Muslims cannot deal with Mark 10:23-27.
Muslims also cannot refute Jesus’ own teachings in Matthew 5:21-26, where He says that the root of murder is in the heart, the hatred, anger, and calling people names; and that internal sin is enough to make a person guilty and condemned to hell.
Muslims also cannot refute Jesus’ own teachings in Matthew 5:27-30, which reveals the root sin of adultery is sexual lusts and fanatasies and evil thoughts, and that those internal thought sins make one guilty enough to go to hell.
Muslims cannot deal with Jesus’ own teachings, in Mark 7:20-23, that it is the sin within the heart of man, the evil thoughts, that are the root of all external sins. Islam cannot deal with pride and lust and anger and greed and jealousy and selfishness. Islam has no power of the cross (Romans 6:6), nor does Islam have the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13; Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:13-26). Islam is mostly a system of external laws and rules; in order to control society. It cannot deal with sin in the hearts of people.
20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride andfoolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Muslims love to criticize the writings of the apostle Paul and the apostle John, and claim that they are not the true teachings of Jesus, but that Mark and Matthew have the true original teachings of Jesus. Well, here we have several passages that the Muslim cannot dismiss, because they are all early teachings of Jesus Himself from the earliest gospels.
Jesus also taught that no person can clean himself up by external washings (which in the wudu/vuzu وضو before the ritual prayers, is a major emphasis in Islam), because the ritual washings cannot cleanse the heart. (Mark 7:1-23; Matthew 15:1-20)