The Muslim View of the Bible
Table of Contents
If there is one assertion that can safely and accurately be made about the Muslim view of the Bible it would be that there is no one unified Muslim view of the Bible. The truth is that Muslims and their scriptures often differ on this subject. Additionally, Muslims differ with one another concerning how to view the Bible.
Some Muslims kiss the Injil [Gospels or New Testament] which the Christian offers them and read it with reverence. Some Muslims forbid their fellow-Muslims to accept it. A few Muslim fathers beat their children who read it. Still other Muslims may burn it or tear it to shreds. Some Muslims receive it politely in order not to offend their Christian friends, but inwardly old it in contempt. Some Muslims, who sincerely desire to read it, read it in secret, lest other family members taunt them for reading it. (1)
The wide spectrum of variance in the attitude towards the Bible among Muslims comes in large part from a tension between what the Quran and Hadith teach about the Bible, and what the Bible teaches about Muslim doctrine. More specifically, the Quran and Hadith teach that Muslims should accept and read the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospels) as authoritative revelation from God. The difficulty for Muslims is that they know (or have been told) that the Bible (especially the Injeel) contradicts Muslim doctrine by teaching things like the deity of Jesus, the Trinity, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. So in light of the many exhortations by Muhammad the Prophet of Islam to read and accept the Taurat and Injeel which are known to contradict the Quran, the Muslim logically arrives at the aprioriconclusion that the Taurat and Injeel must have been corrupted since the time of the Prophet.
The accusation that the Jews and even Christians corrupted the Injeel and Taurat is the most widespread and common answer Muslims have to the Christian Bible. But this is not the only answer they employ to escape their logical dilemma. One popular strategy is to prove the Bible errant and therefore an untrustworthy collection of man’s writings. Another view is that the Bible (Taurat and Injeel) has been abrogated by the Quran. Still another view suggests that the Taurat and Injeel returned to heaven with the ascension of Jesus. The bottom line is that while these views may differ in details they all arise out of the need to reconcile the above mentioned tension between the admonition to read the Injeel and Taurat with the knowledge that these books contradict the Quran.
INTENTION AND METHOD
The intention of this work is to demonstrate that all of the accusations against the Bible cited above are false as well as meaningless in light of what the Quran and Hadith, the true authority in Islam, actually teach about the Bible and what the Bible itself teaches.
Our method is to first address some important differences between Muslim and Christian views of inspiration and the qualifications of scripture and revelation. Then we will answer the allegation that the Bible has been corrupted by giving apologetic answers for to the errant views that Muslims hold of our Scriptures. Finally we will give our main argument which is to appeal to the Quran and the Hadith to prove that the orthodox Muslim view of the Bible is that it is divinely inspired and authoritative just like the Quran. We will conclude by proving that the Bible of the time of Muhammad and the Quran is the same Bible of today.
DIFFERENCES IN VIEWS OF SCRIPTURES/REVELATIONS
One of the first difficulties encountered when Muslims and Christians dialogue concerning the scriptures is that they both have very different views of the nature of scriptures.
The Muslim view of the scriptures is based on the belief of the Umm al-Kitab (mother of the book). This is the eternal book in heaven from which all scriptures and revelations have been previously sent down to man. The Muslim belief is that there have been 104 such revelatory books all of which have been taken back to paradise with the exception of the books given to Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad. While the books of Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus should comprise the Old Testament and the Gospels that Christians accept, this is not necessarily the case as we shall see.
While the Christian view of the Old and New Testament includes the concept of progressive revelation with the types of Christ and the Christian life manifest in the New Testament present in the Old:
“In the view of Islam, each [of the 104] book[s] brought the same message, without any typological scaffolding such as prospective sacrifices for sin, etc., the major difference between the Books of Islam being that the previous scriptures predicted the coming of Muhammad, which the Quran records as fulfilled.” (2)
Additionally, Islam views the Quran more like we view Jesus than the way we view the Bible. The Quran for Islam is the Word of God, the way, and even the “spirit” of Allah.
Just as Christians believe that impartation of spiritual life by the Spirit of Christ enables us to walk in conformity with he will of God, Romans 8:9, so the internalization of the Quran enables Muslims to live the life of perfect submission to God, as exemplified by Muhammad. (3)
Another key difference in views of revelation and scriptures comes from the respective views of inspiration of Christianity and Islam. The Christian view of the Holy Spirit moving upon men to write what He wanted to convey in the words He chose yet not overriding the personalities and styles of the writers is unacceptable to the Muslim. For it is well known that Muslims claim that Muhammad received the revelations directly from the angel Gabriel and he merely dictated them to the writers of the Quran. In Islam the Quran is supposed to be comprised of only this dictation of the words of Allah given through the angel Gabriel. The Hadith (Muslim traditions of the prophet) is the supposed to contain the sayings of the Prophet and the commentary of those around him and the writers of the Hadith. The following is a very helpful illustration given by William Campbell, a Christian apologetic writer, of how Muslims would view Luke 8:21 if it were an accepted part of the Muslim scriptures:
According to James the half-brother of Jesus (may God be pleased with him) the occasion for the revelation of Luke 8:21 was as follows,
Now my mother and brothers and myself came to see Jesus, but we were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’
And then the verse was revealed, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’
This Hadith was transmitted by Luke and Mark in their books, which (along with those of Matthew and John) are the most valuable among the collection of Hadiths. (4)
Note that in the above illustration only the portion in bold would be viewed as Injil (or Gospel) while the rest would be recorded in a separate book for hadiths (tradition). Thus the Muslim has a hard time considering the Gospels as the Injil since they appear to him as a mix of direct revelation, and the tradition of the words of men. The Islamic scriptures of the Quran and the Hadith separate the two while the Bible contains both together.
It is out of this misunderstanding (or difference of views) that many Muslim apologists base their attacks on the Bible. Islamic apologist Ahmed Deedat has taught that there are “three grades of evidence” – the Word of God, the Words of a Prophet of God, and the Words of a Historian. He then claims that the bulk of the Bible is this third kind of witness, the words of a historian. (5)
While there is much more that could be said concerning this foundational difference in understanding the nature of revelation and inspiration of the scriptures, we will not take too much time with this topic as this difference will not affect our overall argument. But before we move on, we must remind the reader that the following discussion only pertains to the Old Testament and the Gospels. Muslims do not accept the writing of Paul and allege that Paul was a traitor to Jesus and the true Gospels. (6) So now we move on to some of the specific Muslim allegations against the Bible.
THE BIBLE CONTAINS ERRORS AND IS OBVIOUSLY NOT THE WORD OF GOD
This argument has become the hobbyhorse for the Muslim apologist. The contention that the Bible is errant goes hand in hand with the aforementioned view of the Bible as the word of the historian and not of God. Muslims have attacked the integrity of the Bible in many different ways over the years. Some of the attacks are completely unfounded being made either out of ignorance or willful deception. For example, Ahmed Deedat, in his debate with Josh McDowell, argued that the Christians chose Matthew, Mark, Luke and John out of 4000 some versions of the Gospels. Deedat either completely misunderstands the concept of Biblical manuscripts or he willfully misrepresented the truth. Other attacks are simple misunderstandings of the Bible or seeing contradictions where there are none. Still others follow Higher Criticism and the liberal scholarship from within Christianity. And finally, a growing trend in Islamic apologetics (especially since the publishing of Maurice Bucaille’s The Bible The Quran and Modern Science) has been to attempt to demonstrate that the Quran is superior to the Bible in accordance with modern scientific knowledge.
Volumes of excellent Christian scholarship have been written to answer all of these claims. While it is certainly beyond the scope and purpose of this work to dwell on specifics in this area, it is helpful to recognize some of the main arguments Islamic apologists employ since they are instrumental in shaping the Muslim view of the Bible.
One very popular Muslim argument is that since there are so many “different” Bibles, which one is the real one? After all there is only one Quran. Another objection is that the Bible is the words of man while the Quran is the words of God. A related objection involves the language of the Bible. The Quran was given in Arabic and thus is still the true revelation in Arabic. But the Bible is in so many different languages that it is no longer valid as the Word of God. It is also alleged that the “real” Injeel would be in Aramaic and not Greek, therefore even our Greek New Testament is not authentic. All of these arguments and objections can easily be answered by sound prolegomena and bibliology bridging the gap in our views of inspiration, and revelation. The arguments here are diversions from the real issue at hand which is the text itself. The next group of arguments deals with just that.
Muslims allege that the Bible is full of errors. They often cite the four Gospels to prove contradictions within the text. Very common questions are raised about issues such as the differing genealogies in Matthew and Luke, the amount of time Jesus was in the grave differing from “three days and three nights” from Matthew 12:40, is man’s life span really 120 years (Gen. 6:3), and seemingly contradictory parallel accounts of the creation and the flood.
THE MAN MADE ORIGINS OF THE BIBLE
Once again we are dealing with allegations and accusations that have already been well answered by Christian apologists. Our view of inerrancy demand that we deal with apparent contradictions and falsehoods in the Bible. Again, excellent works been written to explain these and other texts which are sometimes difficult to understand. A more advanced attack forwarded by Muslims is their great willingness to use liberal Christian views of the Bible including Higher Criticism to discredit the Bible as the Word of God.
Muslims are quick to quote liberal Anglicans and others who profess their lack of faith in the trustworthiness of the Bible as a factual, historical and reliable witness. In the more advanced Muslim attacks on the Bible, Higher Criticism comprises the attack. Maurice Bucaille explains in reference to the authenticity of the Bible in his chapter, “Origins of the Bible,”
A Revelation is mingled in all these writings, but all we possess today is what men have seen fit to leave us. These men manipulated the texts to please themselves, according to the circumstances they were in and the necessities they had to meet. (7)
Bucaille did not need to invent any proof for this statement, for he cites extensively the Documentary Hypothesis as his proof for the Old Testament being merely a collection of traditions and fable handed down orally for hundreds of years. On page 26 of Bucaille’s book he gives a table that supposedly breaks up Genesis Chapter 1 through 11 in to different alleged sources (Yahvist and Sacerdotal (‘J’ and ‘P’ in Documentary Hypothesis)) under which he inserted the following words, “What simpler illustration can there be of the way men have manipulated the Biblical Scriptures?” (8)
Of course we know that this illustration and argument is not simple at all. The documentary hypothesis is just that a hypothesis. Additionally, if one researches the Documentary Hypothesis he will find that it is completely based on anti-supernatural presuppositions as well as Darwinian and Hegelian evolutionary frameworks applied to the Bible. There is also good reason to believe that the German scholars who invented this hypothesis did so partly out of a strong anti-Semitic sentiment already present in Europe in the 19th century.
The Documentary Hypothesis, not unlike the theory of evolution, has absolutely no proof. There has never been a “J”, “D”, “E”, or “P” document ever discovered. The Muslim argument against the historicity of the Old Testament being based primarily on Higher Criticism fails as it is completely unsubstantiated and based upon biased and improvable presuppositions. The fact is that no part of the Old Testament has ever been proven to be false. In fact, archaeological finds consistently confirm rather than contradict the biblical record.
The origins of the New Testament are also questioned by Muslims. Their accusations once again closely follow Higher Criticism and liberal scholarship. Authorship and date is questioned a well as any hope of knowing what the actual autographs said. The argument is essentially that the writings were originally not the Word of God and even what was written is inaccessible to us in any sure form today. (9)
An interesting point to note concerning the accuracy and authenticity of the Old Testament is the very fact that there are so many verifiable facts recorded in the Old Testament. The Quran, on the other hand, has almost no verifiable dates or events. Along with this, is the fact that many Old Testament narratives are repeated with very few discrepancies in the Quran (The narrative of Joseph for instance in Genesis 37-50 and Surah 12 “Yusuf” in the Quran is almost identical). It seems curious then that if the Bible is simply a mix of collections of what different men wanted us to believe about God, and the Quran is the direct dictation of the Word of God straight from the mouth of Gabriel, that many passages in the Old Testament and the Quran would be so similar. This seems to imply that these similar passages in the Quran would be just as subject to criticism as there Biblical counterparts. And finally, the same anti-supernatural presuppositions that underlie Higher Criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis would yield the same results if applied to the Quran. Much of the Quran and especially the Hadith would be discredited through the various forms of Higher Criticism based upon an anti-supernatural foundation of thought. This double edged sword also applies to the next area of Muslim criticism of the Bible which its alleged unscientific stance.
The whole basis of Bucaille’s book is that the Quran is in accordance with modern science while the Bible is not. This view seems to be a growing apologetic for the Muslim world especially in this postmodern age. While Muslims disagree among themselves concerning evolution, the Quran is presented as accommodating evolution unlike the Bible which clearly teaches the creation of all living things. But this argument not only concerns evolution, but other scientific matters. The Old Testament is said to be wrong about matters like a world wide flood, man’s life span be set at 120 years, the age of the earth, and faulty dating of historical events. The Gospels are usually not attacked in the argument for scientific compatibility but are more the victim of alleged contradictions and errors in the text.
While there are many different passages in the Old Testament that are attacked as being unscientific by Muslims they all have one thing in common, the Quran either does not include these passages at all, or includes them but lacks the very clarity and details in the Bible that are being attacked. It seems that in the Muslim view the less complete the view the more correct it is. One wonders if the Muslim ever considered that the very details that are absent in his Quran and which he is attacking are actually proof that the Quran is an imperfect derivation of the more detailed accounts in the Bible?
While the many accusations of scientific error in the Bible may seem insurmountable to the average Christian, once again the astute believer knows that these alleged problems are based in misunderstandings, false presuppositions, or willful deception. The Muslim has a much stronger case and often emphasizes not so much the biblical disunity with science but the supposed perfect harmony of the Quran and modern science.
The Muslim view that the Quran is in perfect accordance with modern science is quite pertinent to the Muslim view of the Bible. For the bottom line of this thinking is simply that the Bible is out of step with modern scientific thinking and thus does not present a rational faith for the modern day believer. And conversely the Quran contains the truths of modern science in a basic form centuries before man knew or understood the science, and therefore the Quran is obviously of divine origin.
Maurice Bucaille and many other Muslims have claimed that the Quran teaches authoritatively and scientifically on things like evolutionary origins, astronomy, the development of the human embryo, and modern geological findings. These are just some common claims among which there are no doubt others. Many of these passages are very vague and hardly acceptable as scientific explanations. Nevertheless, Muslims use these arguments as another way to prove the Quran divine and the Bible of human origin.
THE BIBLE ACCORDING TO THE QURAN AND HADITH
In this section we will demonstrate that the orthodox Muslim view of the Bible is (or at least should be) that the Bible (Taurat and Injeel) during the time of the Prophet Muhammad around 600AD was considered to be the true revelation from Allah and in existence at that time. To accomplish this we will rely on the Quran and the Hadith the accepted authority of Muslims all over the world.(10)
THE QURAN ON THE BIBLE
The Bible is said to have come form above in the same way the Quran was:
3:3 He has revealed to you this Book with the Truth, confirming the scripture which preceded it, as He revealed the Taurat (Torah) and Injeel (Gospel),
In the following verse we see that so great is the reverence of these books that there is a grave punishment for those who disbelieve these revelations of Allah:
3:4 Before this, as a guidance for mankind and also revealed this Al-Furqan (criterion for judgment between right and wrong). Surely those who reject Allah’s revelations will be sternly punished; Allah is Mighty, capable of retribution.
The following is a listing of numerous verses from the Quran that authenticate the Torah or Taurat (Old Testament) and the Injeel (Gospels). These passages taken as a whole show that The Taurat and Injeel were considered authentic scriptures on par with the Quran and having the same heavenly source. Also, you will see that the Taurat and Injeel must have been available to the Muslim in Muhammad’s day and in their authentic form.
2:40 O children of Israel! Remember My favors to you; fulfill your covenant (firm Commitment) with Me and I will fulfill My covenant with you, that you should fear none but Me.
2:41 Believe in My revelations, which are confirming your scriptures; do not be the first one to deny My revelations, and do not sell them for a petty price, fear Me and Me alone.
61:6 And remember when Isa (Jesus) the son of Maryam said: “O children of Israel! I am the Rasool of Allah towards you, confirming the Torah which came before me, and to give you good news of a Rasool that will come after me whose name shall be Ahmed (another name of Muhammad, meaning ‘The praised one’).” But when he (Muhammad) came to them with clear signs, they said “This is plain magic.”
5:66 If they would have observed the Laws of Taurat and the Injeel (Gospel) and other Revelations which were sent to them from their Rabb, they would have certainly enjoyed abundance from above and from beneath. Though there are some among them on the moderate course; but most of them do nothing but evil.
5:68 Tell them: O people of the Book! You have no ground to stand on unless you observe the Taurat (Torah), Injeel (Gospel) and other revelations that have come to you from your Rabb. This revelation (The Qur’an) which has come to you from your Rabb will surely increase the rebellion and disbelief of many of them but you should not grieve for the disbelievers.
2:136 Say: “We believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us; and what was revealed to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma’il (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Ya’qoob (Jacob) and their descendants, and that which was given to Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus) and other Prophets from their Rabb. We do not discriminate any of them, and to Allah we have surrendered ourselves (in Islam).”
4:136 O believers! Believe in Allah, His Rasool, the Book which He has revealed to His Rasool, and every Book which He previously revealed. He who denies Allah, His angels, His Books, His Rasools and the Last Day has gone far astray.
6:114 Say: Should I seek a judge other than Allah, when He is the One Who has revealed this Book (The Qur’an) with full details? Those whom We gave the Book, before you, know very well that it is revealed to you from your Rabb with the Truth; therefore, you should not be of those who have doubts.
41:45 Before this Qur’an, We had given the Book to Musa and it was similarly disputed. If your Rabb had not already given a word, the judgment would have been passed between the disputants; grave though their suspicions were about it.
2:87 To Musa (Moses) We gave the Book (Torah) and sent after him other Rasools in succession; then We gave Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), clear Signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit (Gabriel). Why is it that whenever there came to you a Rasool with a message which did not suit your desires, you became so arrogant that some you called impostors and others you killed!
5:43 But why do they come to you for judgment when they have the Taurat which contains Allah’s commandments? Yet they turn back after that. In fact, they are not true believers. 5:44 Indeed We revealed the Taurat to Moses, in which there is guidance and light: By its laws, all the Prophets, who were Muslims, judged those who call themselves Jews and so did the rabbis and jurists of law. They were entrusted the protection of Allah’s Book and they themselves were witnesses. Have no fear of people; fear Me, and do not sell My revelations for a petty price: those who do not judge by the law which Allah has revealed, are indeed kafirs (unbelievers).
Notice these next two instances of the same verse. Notice that the translators added in the idea of a partial or distorted text in the first translation as opposed to the second:
5:46 Then in the footsteps of those Prophets, We sent Isa (Jesus) the son of Maryam (Mary) confirming whatever remained intact from the Taurat in his time, and gave him the Injeel(Gospel) wherein was guidance and light, corroborating what was revealed in the Taurat; a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. (Malik)
5:46 And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil). (Pickthall)
Finally, consider the strength of this verse which was supposedly given to Muhammad:
10:94 If you are in doubt regarding what We have revealed to you, ask those who have been reading the Book [Jews and Christians] before you. In fact, the truth has indeed come to you from your Rabb: therefore, do not be of those who doubt,
THE SUNNAH AND THE HADITH
Sunan of Abu-Dawood hadith 1617
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Ibn Suriya’: I remind you by Allah Who saved you from the people of Pharaoh, made you cover the sea, gave you the shade of clouds, sent down to you manna and quails sent down you Torah to Moses, do you find stoning (for adultery) in your Book? He said: You have reminded me by the Great. It is not possible for me to belie you. He then transmitted the rest of the tradition.
Notice that this next Hadith sounds strangely similar to John Chapter 8. It is also an excellent passage to show that Muhammad considered the Torah to be authoritative (from Allah) and accurate in his day. So much so that he judged this case based on the teaching of the Torah.
Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 2092
A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) to Quff. So he visited them in their school. They said: AbulQasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) who sat on it and said: Bring the Torah. It was then brought. He then withdrew he cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee. He then said: Bring me one who is learned among you. Then a young man was brought. The transmitter then mentioned the rest of the tradition of stoning similar to the one transmitted by Malik from Nafi'(No. 4431)
Sahih Al-Bukhari 4.829
The Jews came to Allah’s Apostle and told him that a man and a woman from amongst them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah’s Apostle said to them, “What do you Torah (old Testament) about the legal punishment of Ar-Rajm (stoning)?” They replied, (But) we announce their crime and lash them.” Abdullah bin Salam said, “You are telling a lie; Torah contains the order of Rajm.” They brought and opened the Torah and one of them solaced his hand on the Verse of Rajm and read the verses preceding and following it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, “Lift your hand.” When he lifted his hand, the Verse of Rajm was written there. They said, “Muhammad has told the truth; the Torah has the Verse of Rajm. The Prophet then gave the order that both of them should be stoned to death. (‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said, “I saw the man leaning over the woman to shelter her from the stones.”
Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 105
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) spoke of something and said: It will happen when knowledge will be no more. I said: Allah’s Messenger, how will knowledge vanish despite the fact that we will be reciting the Qur’an and teaching its recitation to our children and our children will teach its recitation to their children up to the Day of Resurrection? Thereupon he said: Ziyad, may your mother weep over you. I was of the pinion that you were one of those who have greatest understanding of religion in Medina. Do these Jews and Christians not recite the Torah and the Bible but not act according to what is contained in them? Transmitted by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi.
Sahih Muslim Hadith 1253
AbuSalih used to command us (in these words): When any one of you intends to go to sleep, he should lie in bed on his right side and then say: “O Allah, the Lord of the Heaven, the Lord of the Earth and the Lord of the Magnificent Throne; our Lord, and the Lord of everything: the Splitter of the grain of corn and the date-stone (or fruit kernel), the Revealer of the Torah, Injil (Bible) and the Criterion (the Holy Qur’an), I seek refuge in Thee from the evil of everything Thou art to seize by the forelock (thou hast perfect control over it). O Allah, Thou art the First, there is naught before Thee, and Thou art the Last and there is naught after Thee, Thou art Evident and there is nothing above Thee, Thou art Innermost and there is nothing beyond Thee. Remove the burden of debt from us and relieve us from want.” AbuSalih used to narrate it from AbuHurayrah who narrated it from Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him).
THE CHARGE OF A CORRUPTED TEXT
FROM THE QURAN
Among the Jews there are some who take the words out of their context and utter them with a twist of their tongues to slander the true Deen (faith) and say: “We hear and we disobey;” and “Hear, may you (O Muhammad) hear nothing!” And “Ra’ina” (an ambiguous word meaning: “listen, may you become deaf,” or “our shepherd,” or “in judeo-Arabic language conveying the sense of “our evil one”). If only they had said: “We hear and we obey;” and “Hear us;” and “Unzurna (“look upon us,” or ” pay attention to us”): it would have been better for them and more proper. Due to all this Allah has cursed them for their unbelief. In fact with the exception of a few, they have no faith.
Even after that, they broke their covenant; as a result, We laid on them Our curse and hardened their hearts. They tempered with words out of their context and neglected much of what they were enjoined. You will always find most of them deceitful except for a few of them. Yet forgive them and overlook their misdeeds. Allah loves those who are kind to others.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith
Narrated Ubaidullah bin
Abdullah bin Utba
Ibn Abbas said, “O Muslims? How do you ask the people of the Scriptures, though your Book (i.e. the Qur’an) which was revealed to His Prophet is the most recent information from Allah and you recite it, the Book that has not been distorted? Allah has revealed to you that the people of the Scriptures have changed with their own hands what was revealed to them and they have said (as regards their changed Scriptures): This is from Allah, in order to get some worldly benefit thereby.” Ibn Abbas added: “Isn’t the knowledge revealed to you sufficient to prevent you from asking them? By Allah I have never seen any one of them asking (Muslims) about what has been revealed to you.”
This charge is the strongest of all in the Quran and Hadith that would indicate that Christians and Jews had distorted the Bible. There are many other references to the Jews and Christians wrongly interpreting their scriptures but this is the closest any allegation comes to actually suggesting that the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) actually changed their scriptures.
In considering these charges we need to make a distinction between the charge of changing the actual text (tahrif-i lafzi) and the lesser charge of distorting the interpretation or meaning of the text (tahrif-i ma’nawi). While there are several charges in the Quran and Hadith of tahrif-i ma’nawi, there is no explicit charge of tahrif-I lafzi. The closest of all is the last Hadith quoted above.
While the neither the Quran nor the Hadith make explicit charges against the Jews and Christians of changing their scriptures Muslims make this charge frequently. Since the charge has been made we will give our arguments against the possibility of such changes.
ANSWERING THE CHARGE OF CORRUPTION
First of all it appears clear from the Quran that the Taurat and Injeel were both intact and in their authentic and authoritative form at the time of Muhammad. While the Quran and Hadith do charge the Jews and Christians of distorting or poorly interpreting their scriptures, these charges rightly fall short of claming tahrif-I lafzi.
Now if we suppose for a moment that the strongest charges made by the Hadith are actually suggesting tahrif-I lafzi, then either authentic biblical texts were still available or the Quran and Hadith are wrong in encouraging the Prophet and Muslims to consult with the People of the Book and to judge by and live by the revelation in the Taurat and Injeel.
The bottom line is that all of the evidence in the Quran and the Hadith clearly indicate that the actual Taurat and Injeel were still in existence during the time of Muhammad. Now if this is the case Muslims are left to suggest that Christians and Jews have distorted the Scriptures since that time. But here is where the Muslims have made a fatal apologetic mistake. If we can prove that the Torah and Gospels of today are unchanged from the 7th century AD then we can prove that we have in our possession what Muhammad and the Quran refer to as the Taurat and Injeel. And of course, the Quran informs Muslims that they must revere and follow the teachings of both these books. So the only question that remains is if we can prove that the Torah and Gospels of today are essentially unchanged from the 7th century? The answer is, of course, a resounding YES!
MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE FOR THE BIBLE
Not only do we have excellent evidence that the Bible is essentially unchanged from the time of Muhammad, we also have proof that the Bible is the same today as it was long before the time of Muhammad. There are now over 6000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, much more than any ancient work. Jose O’Callahan’s discovery of Mark fragments from the Qumran scrolls shows us the same Gospel even in the 1st Century(11) What’s more; we have very strong manuscript evidence in the Papyri beginning in the second century. Before the 7th century we have more than one complete codex (Bible) from which we can compare and find that the Bible of today is the same before, during and after the time of Muhammad. For example, Vaticanus from 325-350AD contains the entire New Testament which is essentially the same as our New Testament today.(12) Of course this is just a minute part of the overwhelming evidence we have for the authenticity and the consistency of the Scriptures from before Muhammad’s time until today. We could also point to Codex Sinaticus 4th century AD, or the Codex Alexandrinus from the 5th century AD, or the Codex Bezae from around 500 AD.(13) While all of these Bibles included the four Gospels just as we have them today, these codex represent just a small part of the 6000 manuscripts we have which prove both the reliability and consistency of the New Testament from before, during and after the time of Muhammad.
The situation is essentially the same for the Old Testament. We have sections of the Old Testament that date from the 3rd Century BC (The Dead Sea Scrolls).(14) Additionally, we strong Old Testament manuscript evidence of consistency and accuracy right through the 4th Century AD. (15) We can compare out text today with these manuscripts and find once again the same readings.
While Muslims all over the world charge Christianity and Judaism with changing and corrupting the Bible, such charges are not explicitly made even once in the Quran or the Hadith, their own authoritative scriptures. Furthermore, we see from the Quran and the Hadith that Muhammad instructed Muslims to both follow and revere the scared Taurat (Old Testament) and Injeel (Gospels). This of course, would have been impossible if the authentic Taurat and Injeel did not exist during the time of Muhammad. But we see that the Quran and Hadith make it clear that Muhammad himself referred to them, honored them, and considered them authoritative and binding on the people of his day. Finally, we see that there is definitive historical evidence that the Bible today is essentially the same as it was before, during and after the time of Muhammad. We conclude therefore that the popular Muslim view of the Bible is in error and out of sync with their own scriptures. And thus, Muslims are still bound to read, believe and obey the Scriptures of the Old Testament and the Gospels. They should also take the advice of their own scholars. Consider the following quote from Mawlawi Muhammad Sa’id, a former inspector of schools in Punjab, who writes:
Some Muslims imagine that the Injil is corrupted. But as far as corruption is concerned, not even one among all the verse of the Quran mentions that the Injil or the Tawrat is corrupted. In the concerned passages it is written that the Jews – yes the Jews, not the Christians – alter the meaning for the passages from the Tawrat while they are explaining them. At least the Christians are completely exonerated from this charge. Hence the Injil is not corrupted and the Tawrat is not corrupted. For it does not necessarily follow that these Scriptures are corrupt because of the wrong opinion of some uninformed persons(16)
In the end we see that the popular Muslim view that Christians and Jews have corrupted their Scriptures fails. It fails to find support among the Quran, the Hadith, or wide support among Muslim scholars. Thus the painful dilemma remains for the Muslim: “How do we reconcile the different teachings about Jesus from the Quran and the Bible?” For an answer we invite all our Muslims friends to ask an informed Christian.
1. Ghiyathuddin Adelphi and Ernest Hahn, The Integrity of the Bible according to the Quran and the Hadith. Second ed. 1993. Accessed at http://answering-islam.org.uk/Hahn/integrity.html on 3/18/2005.
2. Antoin MacRuaidh, The Attitude ofhte the Quran and Sunnah to the Christian Scriptures. Accessed at http://debate.org.uk/topics/theo/attitude.htm on 3/18/2005, page 2
4.William, Campbell, The Quran and the Bible in the Light of History and Science> (Arab World Ministries USA) 1986, 6.
6.Maurice Bucaille, The Bible The Quran and Science: The Holy Scriptures Examined in Light of Modern Knowledge (Pakistan: Darulfikr, 1977) 50.
10.It should be noted that not all Muslims accept all Hadiths. While there is much disagreement, there is a broad acceptance of much of the Hadith among Muslims in general. Still, we believe that the reader will see that the argument from the Quran alone (accepted by all Muslims) is more than sufficient in proving our point.
11. Geisler, Norman L, Systematic Theology Volume One: Introduction, Bible ( Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2002) 474-475.
12. Geisler, Norman L, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics ( Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999) 534-535.