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This week we have been dealing with the charge by Muslims that the Bible has been corrupted. We have looked at evidence that proves the Bibles we hold in our hands today is the same that God gave in the original autographs.
We are still finding new manuscripts, some of which date to within just a few decades of when the words were originally penned. We find that the vast majority of these manuscripts read just the same as those we have been using.
The text from which our Old Testament was translated dated from about 900 AD. It accuracy was confirmed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940’s. The documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls are virtually identical to those we have been using even though they were more than 1,000 years older. God had kept His Word pure for all of that time.
The New Testament manuscripts have more errors that the Old Testament manuscripts because they were not copied by trained scribes. However, we have nearly 6,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, many only partial, and we have ancient translations dating back to the second century. In addition to these Bible manuscripts and translations, we have more than 40,000 sermons written by the early church fathers in which many passages are quoted. We can categorize these documents into families according to the kind of variants found in them. The largest family is called the Majority Text or the Textus Receptus. This family includes at least 95% of all of the existing manuscripts, translations, and quotes.
There is no doubt that the Bible we use today contains the same words written by the writers in the original autographs. We have the exact words Moses wrote in the first five books of the Bible. We have the exact same words that Paul wrote in his epistles. We have the exact same words that John wrote in the last book of the Bible.
It makes no sense for God to have gone to the trouble to give us His inspired, infallible, perfect Word, and then to have allowed it to be corrupted by man. We saw that God had promised in His Word to preserve it for every generation (Psalm 12:6-7).
Many have tried to challenge the idea that we still have the pure Word of God. The more we study, and the more evidence we uncover, the more proof we find that our Bibles are the Inspired Word of God and contain the Words of God as originally penned.
When we put the Qur’an through the same kind of scrutiny we don’t get the same results and we find a lot of problems. Lets take a look at the Qur’an with the same scrutiny as we have looked at the Bible.
Muslims see our Bible as the word of Allah. The believe that the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is Allah. They believe that it was Allah that gave the first five books of the Bible to Moses. They believe that Allah is behind all of our Bible, including the New Testament, except for the writings of Paul.
The message of the Bible and the message of the Qur’an is different. How do they explain this? They tell us that the Jews corrupted the Old Testament and the Christians corrupted the New Testament. Since this happened Allah had to clear things up and that is why, in the seventh century, he gave the last testament, the Qur’an, through the prophet Muhammad. They believe that anything written before which disagrees with the Qur’an is abrogated and the Qur’an is the final word.
Lets look at the history of the Qur’an. How did it come into being? The Qur’an was kept through oral tradition. This was the way things were passed from generation to generation in Arabia at that time. There were no books written in Arabia before the Qur’an.
Oral recitation of the Qur’an is believed by Muslims to be the believer’s most direct contact with the word of Allah. The art of recitation, is known as tajwid or tartil. It is still practiced today.
There is debate about Mohammad being illiterate as the Hadith records that he told the Jinn (Spirit) that he could not read. He is called the “unlettered prophet.” After his marriage he became wealthy and he was able to hire a scribe to do his reading and writing for him.
Leaving important transmission to the power of memory is extremely risky and raises questions about the validity of what has been retained. We should question if these reciters, men who memorized the Qur’an, were infallible. They were fallible men so how can we be sure that didn’t change something?
The Qur’an was kept largely in the memories of its adherents for over 40 years before it was transcribed into one official manuscript. This manuscript is called the Uthman Codex.
Before it was ever written down there were seven different oral versions of the Qur’an. In one of the Hadith, Muslim 4.1782, Umar b. Khattab said, “…The Qur’an was sent downin seven dialects. So recite what seems easy therefrom..” They acknowledge that there were seven different versions and they were told to recite the one that was easiest for them.
This shows that the reciters were not infallible. If they were, they would all recite perfectly each word the same way each time. This raises another valid question, which version is the perfect, inherent word and who will be able to determine it?
There was disagreement between the early leaders in Islam after the death of Muhammad as to weather the Qur’an should be written down or kept by oral tradition. The first Caliph, Bakr, attempted to write it down and it was not accepted by the majority of Muslims. This first attempt is called the Bakr Codex.
Bakr wanted it written down because he feared that those who had memorized the Qur’an could be killed in wars and it would be lost for all time. He also wanted it written down because there was division between those who held to different versions. Some were claiming that their version was superior to the others.
Umar, who was the second Caliph, wanted the Qur’an passed on by oral tradition and so he stopped the work on the Bakr Codex.
The third Caliph, Uthman, was of the persuasion that it needed to be written down. In one of the battles 40 of the men who had memorized the Qur’an perished. This caused great concern that they might loose the Qur’an if it was only kept in the hearts of men. This resulted in an official act to bring the Qur’an into one written book. Note that this is 40 years after the death of Muhammad.
The scribe Tahbit again was enlisted to oversee the work. The Hadith reveals the disagreement and instruction on how it would be settled.
Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510
“In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any pointin the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, theQur’an was revealed in their tongue….. Uthman sent toevery Muslim province one copy of what they hadcopied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials,whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or wholecopies, be burnt.”
It was determined that if Thabit’s intellect was questioned, they would follow the Qurayish Ahruf, as it was the dialect of the prophet. This resulted in the Bakr Codex being burnt along with any other existing manuscripts.
This raises a huge problem. With the Bible we have many manuscripts, even those that differ and we can compare them. We can see the line of God’s preservation by analyzing the various documents. We can’t apply any such analysis to the Qur’an. We can’t analyze the content of the men who memorized the Qur’an because they are no longer with us. We can’t analyze any of the manuscripts that existed before Uthman because they were all destroyed.
How do we know, how can we have confidence that they got the right one? We can’t have that faith or that confidence. All we have is the word of men.
Let me close with this thought. If, as Muslims believe, Allah is responsible for both the Bible and the Qur’an, why would we believe that if he couldn’t keep men from corrupting the Bible, and he is capable of keeping the Qur’an from being corrupted? Was he impotent concerning the Bible and became powerful for the writing of the Qur’an?
We have seen God’s promise to preserve the Bible and we have seen evidence that He did. If Islam is correct, their god, Allah, was incapable of preserving the Bible, but capable of preserving the Qur’an. Why should we believe him?
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