Debate Review: What Was the True Faith of Jesus’s Disciples? – Br. Yahya Snow

I review a debate entitled “What Was The True Faith of Jesus’ Disciples?

The Debaters:

  • Br. Ijaz Ahmad of Calling Christians
  • Rev. Steven Martins of Nicene International Ministries Canada.

Note: I did the bulk of the review a while ago but never managed to finish it in the detail I would have liked but never got back to it through procrastination and other priorities I’ve quickly tidied up what I had and rolled it out.

“None of the Apostles could have written or sanctioned these stories about themselves” – Br. Ijaz Ahmad

Were the Gospel Accounts eye-witness reports

Steven Martins’ approach was to draw upon the New Testament in his attempt to present what he believes the disciples believed. Steven believes the Gospels are the historical eye-witness records of  the disciples. This was rejected outright by Ijaz Ahmad who pointed out the 4 Gospels were not contemporary to Jesus p and nor are the writers of these Gospels known so how can somebody take these works as eye-witness accounts? None of the authors of the documents which make up the NT were eye-witnesses. Paul himself indicates this of himself (and his writings are the earliest written amongst the NT writings). On top of this the authors of the 4 Gospels are anonymous (these names Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were later given to the anonymous authors). So weighing up all these points it’s sad to hear Steven insist these writings were eye-witness accounts. Perhaps this is what he was taught by his mentors and other Christian apologists but that does not make it true.

Also, just knowing these two basic facts would preclude one from claiming the authors were eye-witnesses – the Gospels are written by highly literate Greek speakers while the companions of Jesus were considered to be illiterate and Aramaic speakers (these people were lower class men). This suggestion they were unschooled is backed up by the writer of Acts as Ijaz cites:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. [Acts 4:13]

This may seem odd to us folk living in the 21st Century but the vast majority of the ancient world did not know how to read and write.

Ijaz Ahmad offers an analysis that many may have never come across – the alleged chains of transmission of the Gospel accounts. 4 out of the 6 lead to what Trinitarians would call heretical beliefs and the other two are anonymous – further highlighting the range of differing beliefs amongst early Christians. Ijaz states these chains of transmission indicate Peter, Matthew and John rejected a belief in the death of Jesus (which as Ijaz says, it sounds like they had an Islamic belief!).

Do the Gospels contain myths and legends

Ijaz argues there are erroneous stories in the Gospels. One of Steven Martins’ arguments against the claim the Gospels contains myth and legend is that there was not enough time between Jesus’ life and the recording of the Gospels for myth and legend to enter. He then concludes the Gospels are historical based on this.

Has Steven considered William Lane Craig’s unease at the biggest resurrection story in all of Christian literature – that of the resurrection of the many saints in Matthew. He finds it difficult to accept as a literal event, see here:

William Lane Craig Doubts Resurrection Story is Historical (‘The Resurrection of the Saints’) Matthew 27

Now, if Steven Martins believes this story literally then why does nobody else mention it? A story of many dead people coming out of their graves, is that not something that would get people writing according to Steven? Or does he think this is a myth that was added to the account?

However, a point that it is not unrelated to Steven’s theory, Ijaz Ahmad ran through early Christian history pointing out there were multiple competing Christian traditions which all differed from each other – there were even Gospels which differed from each other. So if at the time of Paul there were different Gospels (now lost) then how can Steven be so confident to believe there are no myths and legends in the four Gospels he has ended up with?

In addition the theology amongst various Christian groups in early Christianity was radically different to the Trinitarian theology the majority of modern-day Christians subscribe to.

There were Christian groups which believed in 2 gods, 12gods and 365 gods. Ijaz Ahmad mentions the Arian controversy as a case in point to demonstrate rival factions were competing with each other. This is a good example to highlight as Arianism is Non-Trinitarian and it drew upon the same scriptures as the Trinitarian faction/s as well as it being a good demonstration of how popularity and a sympathy with the ruling elite promoted one faction over another

Arianism taught that Jesus was created by God and was distinct from God. This belief had it’s scriptural basis in John 14:28

These varying theologies within early Christianity should be something Steven should look into further.

Ijaz taught Paul did not mention or use the four Gospels which modern-day Christians use today so even Paul did not sanction these Gospels. Is it possible Paul was unaware of these Gospels? Not that Paul is a criterion of right and wrong but is it possible Paul would have considered some of the writings in the four Gospels spurious?

Another point mentioned, by Steven I think, Paul abolished circumcision. The question is, who gave him authority to do so?

These are further points for Steven to consider.

Object of worship?

Steven Martins claims throughout the Gospels Jesus is the object of worship – paradoxically he mentions this in the same breath as his mentioning of Satan tempting Jesus p. Think about it, he effectively claimed Jesus was God and Jesus was tempted by Satan. Playing games with the belief of the hypostatic union is not going to get the Bible believing Trinitarian away from this problem. Ijaz Ahmad refers to original language of the scripture to show Steven that the word he uses does not denote the type of worship God receives.

‘Son of God’ title

Steven emphasises the ‘Son of God’ attribution given to Jesus in one of the Gospel narratives after Jesus performed a miracle (walked on water) but this just simply meant somebody who was chosen by God – as taught by Prof. Bart Erhman.

The Gospel of John

 

Rather predictably, Martins in his attempt to prove Jesus was divine, leans heavily on the Gospel of John. Almost as though the Gospel of Mark (the earliest Gospel) does not exist!

The irony is, Steven Martins tells Ijaz Ahmad to give priority to the earlier sources (Gospels) when Ijaz brought up the church history. Sadly, many Christians don’t do this with the Gospels and they lean disproportionately to the last Gospel – John’s Gospel.

Another Christian apologetics argument presented is that some doubted in the story where Jesus is said to have been worshipped. Martins claims the story must be true because it mentions ‘doubt’. I guess he’s utilizing the idea of a criterion of embarrassment argument here.

Martins rattles off the ‘he who has seen me has seen the Father’ argument in his attempt to prove Jesus was divine. Similarly Martins uses the Gospel teaching of  Jesus pre-existing before his birth and the ‘I am’ statements.

Martins states Jesus was omnipotent and omniscient as well as being capable of forgiving sins in order to prove his Trinitarian case. Martins also claims Jesus was called by the name of God, ‘my Lord my God’

Steven Martins would do well to look at where these things are written. Are they written in the Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, or the latest one which is the most Christologically developed whose author is effectively described as a liar by Christian apologist Mike Licona (accused of changing stories to make theological points – thus he was forging stories to get his theology across).This anonymous author (later named John) is not the person Steven wants to be going to to get important aspects of theology or proof texts!

What Every Christian Should Know About The Gospel Of John

Peter
Gleeson Archer is cited by Martins to support the claim that the authorship of 2 Peter should not be corrected. Bart Ehrman teaches us that virtually all scholars (with the exception of conservative evangelicals) are unified that 2 Peter is not from Peter. The bombshell is that Prof.Ehrman does not believes 1 and 2 Peter are not written by Peter at all as hebelieves Peter was illiterate.

And would Ijaz’s citation of Acts not support the view that disciples were illiterate?

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. [Acts 4:13]

Miracles
Martins acknowledges other Prophets performed miracles but he tries to draw a distinction between the miracles performed by Jesus and the other Prophets. Martins intimates, erroneously, that these were done by Jesus independently while the miracles of the other Prophets were done by the authority of God. Has Steven got any proof of this? Does he even have a quotation attributed to Jesus to this effect?
There is something in the Gospel of John that militates against Steven’s claim:
but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” [10:32]
Steven Martins starts talking about the Quran
I’m not sure why he did this but he just presented dated and already refuted Christian missionary material.
Martins mentions the Quran 10:94 and 5:47. Martins claims the Bible was already in existence at the time of the Quran revealed. Martins just presents the standard intellectually dishonest and shallow Christian apologist material on this.
Ijaz touches on this here:

http://callingchristians.com/2013/02/14/does-quran-validate-bible/

Bassam Zawadi here:

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/refuting_the_argument_regarding_the_qur_an_ordering_the_jews_and_christians_to_judge_by_their_scriptures

I think Steven Martins also used one of these missionary arguments too:

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/does_the_quran_affirm_the_teachings_of_paul_

Steven Martins and IjazAhmad on Paul of Tarsus
Ijaz Ahmad focuses on the historicity of multiple traditions within early Christianity which were competing against each other contemporaneously. To support this claim, Ijaz cites Paul twice

Galatians 1:6

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel [ESV]

Romans 2:16

on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [ESV]

Ijaz makes a point worthy of consideration, when Paul mentions ‘gospel’ he’s not referencing the 4 we see in the New Testament as he wrote his letters prior to those 4. Ijaz supports this conclusion through the absence of references from those 4 Gospels within Paul’s letters. So here, ‘my gospel’ is referring to ‘my teachings of Christ’.
Steven Martins offers his argument for Paul being truthful, yet if Steven thinks about it, the throwing yourself into hardship from comfort argument can be used with much greater force to show Prophet Muhammad (p) was truthful. Think about it, just read his life  – the Prophet risked his life and was rejected by his tribe. The argument Steven presents is better suited for Prophet Muhammad (p). If Steven is consistent and objective he would accept Prophet Muhammad (p).
When Reverend Steven Martins wrongly claimed Paul’s writing constituted 75% of the NT it suggested to me that Reverend Steven Martins WAS just eager to deliver a response to defend his already-held world view. Is Steven at home thinking about the points presented deeply and re-evaluating his beliefs, is he searching for the truth or is he simply searching for material to offer in defence of his already-held beliefs?
Ijaz argues Paul turned towards the Gentiles in his preaching because he was weak in his arguments and thus was rejected by the Jews, hence why he turned towards the Gentiles – whom Ijaz believes Paul considered to be an easier audience. Interestingly enough, the Gentiles came from pagan backgrounds where mythology was rampant, this fits in with why the stories about Jesus (p) would have presented him as a god-man, the pagans were accustomed to such stories.
This also ties in with the discussion Ijaz and Steven have on why Paul did not quote from the Gospels. The hardest hitting point as made by Ijaz: Paul was being rejected by the Jews yet he never quoted from the Gospels, why would he not quote something that he believes to be authority to people who were rejecting him?

Disingenuous claim by Christians about Bart Ehrman
I’ve heard this before from Christian apologists. Steven Martins makes the same appeal, claiming even Ehrman believed in the death of Jesus p. However, what Christian apologists always do, they never mention that Ehrman is not accepting miracles and thus is of course going to believe a man who was born over 2000 years ago has died. Thus Ehrman, as a historian, accepts the most popular early story about Jesus p and thus he believes he died. Christians really should stop making this point, it’s not like Ehrman believes in the resurrection belief despite the story of the resurrection is in the same account as the death by crucifixion story.
Controlled or Uncontrolled Texts
Ijaz Ahmad offers a good rebuttal to the James White-style attempt in trying to take a positive out of the lack of a controlled text within early Christianity. The Quran, which was controlled in it’s copying, was scribed in a more suitable environment for accuracy. Chunks were being added to the Gospels by dishonest scribes, so clearly the environment in which the scribes were operating in did not offer restrictions against such doctoring of texts.
If I recall correctly Steven mentioned Uthman. Many Christians are fed misinformation regarding Uthman’s burning of manuscripts. Here’s an expert to explain it:

Why did the Third Caliph Uthman Burn the Copies of Quran?

A really bad argument by Steven pounced on by Ijaz
Martins appeals to the fact that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the pool of Siloam are mentioned in the Gospel accounts as being testimony to the historicity of the Gospels. This is an odd argument – it’s absurdly odd.
To be honest, Steven opened himself up to ridicule when he continued with the argument that geographical locations being mentioned in the Gospels as being evidence for their authenticity. Ijaz hit back by pointing out that the same argument could be used on Harry Potter as it includes King’s Cross station (London). What I’d like to know is, from where did Steven get this line of argumentation? Was it an argument from a Christian apologetics school which he accepted blindly?  And would Steven be consistent enough to now claim Islam is true because in Islamic sources real people and real places are mentioned?

The Christian tradition in 7th century Arabia
I feel it’s misleading when Christian apologists bang on about how their canon was formed by this time and thus assume people in Arabia had the modern-day Bible in their possession in the 7th century as though they were Trinitarian Pauline Christians exactly as we find them in a Baptist church somewhere in Texas.

Christians really need to stop making this assumption and they need to stop basing arguments on this erroneous assumption that all Christians had the same books.
Ijaz Ahmad refutes the superficial (and intellectually dishonest) argument It’s obvious this is not the case. Ijaz mentions Christians and Jews converting to Islam during the time of Prophet Muhammad. I would recommend Reverend Steven Martins looks into the story of Salmam Al Farsi, who converted to Christianity, before the coming of Prophet Muhammad, from a Zoroastrian tradition.
Salman Al-Farsi, the son of a Zoroastrian priest, met a Christian monk inPersia and converted to Christianity at the hands of the monk. Salman Al-Farsi ran away to Syria and joined the monk’s Christian sect which was dying sect. Salman Al-Farsi learned, from his Christian sect, of a Prophet to come who was predicted by Jesus (p). He was told of three signs the Prophet would meet:

He shall appear in a land full of dates.

He will have a physical mark on his back.

This man will accept gifts but never accept charity.
From Syria, Salman Al-Farsi ended up in Yathrib after being enslaved. He wound up toiling away as a slave for decades. A time came when talk spread about Prophet Muhammad (p) emigrating to Medina. Salman Al-Farsi heard of this talk and came to Prophet Muhammad (p), he soon realised Prophet Muhammad (p) fulfilled all three signs and converted to Islam.
Salman’s story indicated how few real Christians were left at the time of Prophet Muhammad (p).

Another story illustrating this was that of the Emperor Heraclius, who received a letter from Prophet Muhammad (p). In the account, Heraclius mentions that there are Scriptures in which a Prophet is predicted to come after Jesus (p) and that Prophet Muhammad (p) fits the description.

Both stories indicate that there were Scriptures that the majority of Christians at the time did not have access.

http://thefactsaboutislam.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/christianity-before-islam-in-arabia.html

City of Village?

The difference between a village of a city – the village of Bethsaida. Ijaz Ahmad picks on the author of John for making an error of anachronism. Luke also calls it a city. Perhaps it was one of those loose Gospel scribes writing after it was changed to a city. Whatever the case may well be (the Gospel authors or the scribes), it’s an interesting point raised by Ijaz Ahmad to possibly further impugn the reliability of those texts.
Ijaz accuses the author of John of an anachronistic error regarding the city of Bethsaida and Ijaz spends some time relaying discrepancies concerning the Gospel accounts. I think he could have offered more examples to the audience of discrepancies but perhaps he wanted to focus on stories involving companions of Jesus rather than the standard show of contradictions between the Gospels such as what Barth Ehrman presents here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuvEmajcaiQ
If clear evidence is shown of discrepancies and changes within the Gospels then the question the truth-seeker may ask is, how can these texts be trusted to think they weren’t changed in other ways to the extent that the texts do not even represent the theology of Jesus?

Conclusion

What’s established from the debate, the Trinitarian narrative is not sound. The Gospels are not reliable. There were competing Gospels and traditions. Basing one’s beliefs entirely on the New Testament is effectively accepting conjecture.

Ijaz Ahmad

Clearly he, for such a young man, has a burgeoning apologetics CV. He and Zakir Hussain could well be the mainstay of Muslim debates with Christians for the next few decades.
It’s also nice to hear an accent other than a North American or British accent.
I think Ijaz rushed his positive case for the disciples being Muslims. Ijaz shows links between Jewish Christianity and Islam. His focus was heavily leaning on refuting Reverend Steven Martins and the Trinitarian narrative – this he achieved easily in clearly demonstrating the Trinitarian narrative is not sound.
Another point I would pick on here, Ijaz went for the more complex points which for an audience tuned in to apologetics may well have been suitable but I’d imagine the majority of the live audience and those viewers of the recorded debate are not too familiar with the bread and butter points regarding Gospel contradictions and textual criticism.

Ijaz possesses faith shattering information for the Christian, it would be wise to always ensure the audience is invited to Islam at the end of the debate. Most apologists and debaters don’t do this but surely we want them to come to the truth of Islam rather than not invite them to the truth after effectively destroying their faith.

Where does Ijaz go from here? Well, I’d imagine on his island the scope for engaging with seasoned apologists is quite limited so I’d personally like him to debate local pastors. People want to see apologists debate but let’s see Muslims go to churches to dialogue with pastors (who have flocks of people following them). I would also hope the pastors aren’t marred by some of the dishonest arguments Christian apologists are plagued with today so the discussion is easier – less rubbish to wade through before engaging the Christians productively.
Ijaz has charisma and seems like a nice guy too so these qualities could well endear him to Christians which can only be a good thing in witnessing the truth of Islamic monotheism to Christians

Steven Martins of Nicene International Ministries

For me, Steven was visibly struggling in this debate. This should be a sign to Steven that he’s not on the right side of the fence.

I think he’s a victim of bad information from those who has learned from. The person who gave him the argument he was making based on the mention of geographical locations should be banned from apologetics!

I really think Steven should not debate again. He’s better off just remove himself from Christian apologetics and begin a search for the truth. Think about some of the questions raised. Think about why Jesus p never mentioned a man called Paul or 4 books that he wanted people to believe were ‘Gospels’.

Research Islam with an open heart and mind.

From my experience with Christians, it appears many have been hooked by emotional preaching. It’s not that they have been convinced intellectually to accept the idea of the Trinity or the god-man concept.

Think deeper.

Reverend Steven Martins on the History of Mecca

Rebuking Rev. Steven Martins of Evangelium & Apologia Ministries – ‘Western Values’

Christian apologetics to Muslims, more women in Hell Hadith

Tackling Christian Apologetics on Polygamy (Polygyny) in the Bible and the Quran

More about the Paraclete

Prophecies of the Messiah – Reza Aslan

Christians having dreams and converting to Islam

Learn about Islam

Email: yahyasnow@yahoo.co.uk

Missionary Mishap: When Reading Comprehension is a Problem

From time to time I get tagged on Facebook with every Tom, Dick and Harry wanting to challenge me to a debate. Some react badly when I decline, or if I don’t respond. This is an example of one of those people and it’s also an example of why I choose not to “debate” or “dialogue” with them:

wpid-2015-07-28-23.32.03.png.png

There are what? 250 000 manuscripts of the Qur’an worldwide. What does the missionary read? That there are 250 000 mistakes in the Qur’ans worldwide. To me, this is pretty funny as I don’t have to do anything to “respond” to him. He’s given the quote and posted his comment, both are in conflict and so he’s done my part for me, by refuting himself.

That’s what I enjoy about the Missionary Mishap series. Almost every post in this series demonstrates the lengths to which missionaries will go, even to the point of quoting something and not being able to read it properly. It makes for good entertainment.

and God knows best.

A Response to Smith, Spencer, Qureishi and Others on Birmingham Qur’an Manuscript Find

We’ll begin by responding to Jay Smith’s ridiculous email, most of which was plagiarized from Spencer’s Jihad Watch article, which is silly in and of itself. So, in responding to Smith’s email entitled, “Are Bart Ehrman’s Views on the Birmingham Fragments Correct?,” the following are my corrections of his lies and deceits:

1. Sahih al Bukhari 6:509 and 510 do not mention anything about canonizing the Qur’an or about corruption. Both hadiths mention the “fear” of corruption happening, but not the actual corruption of anything:

“…and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra’ on other battlefields…”

Therefore, the imagined claims of a yet to be canonized scripture cannot be qualified given anyone’s actual reading of either of these narrations. It then must be asked of you and not of Dr. Ehrman, if you yourself actually know the traditional story of the Qur’an’s preservation.

You mention that since these manuscripts date before the time of ‘Uthman’s alleged rescension, that this must mean they are corrupted. To the contrary, only manuscripts which were not authorized (read as modern “to be published”) were brought into conformity with the “rasm” (read as orthography) of the Prophetic tradition. The fact that the text of Mingana Arabica 1572a agrees with our modern text, clearly contradicts your assertion that it must be “examples of those very corrupted manuscripts” (a term, not found in either of the narrations you referenced).

You then proceeded to copy paste Spencer’s woeful argument that the stories mentioned in Surah 18 must have been written later, therefore the dating must be wrong. In the real world, we do not conform our theories to evidences, rather we let the evidences work for, or against our theories. In this case, it is called “proof by contradiction”, in that both you and Spencer seem unable to grasp the reality that the manuscript has been properly dated and that its text is in conformity with the traditional story of preservation. This does not mean the datings are wrong, it means your timeline of perceived development of the text is wrong. In other words, the proof of the datings, contradicts your claims, ergo you’ve been proven to be wrong.

2. For a person who has studied Islam and the Qur’an for over 20 years, you are severely uneducated when it comes to Islam and the Qur’an. You made the absurd assertion, and let me quote you here, that:

“The Qur’an, unlike the Biblical documents, was never written on papyrus….”

Jay……, Jay………, Jay. I don’t know what to say, except that not only are you wrong, you’re very wrong and at this point you’re just embarrassing yourself. Take a look at this wonderful manuscript of the Qur’an, from the 1st century AH, written in Hijazi, that’s written on….papyrus! Given that you “professionally study the Qur’an”, it esacpes me how one of the only major news stories of 2014 concerning the Qur’an would slip by you.

You went on to argue:

“So where are those four complete Qur’anic manuscripts, all from 650 AD, all of which should be identical, without any manuscript variants? A folio or two discovered here and there (Birmingham and Tubingen) do not the Qur’an make.”

I think he means codices and not manuscripts, because if he means manuscripts, then yes we do have several folios of complete manuscripts of the Qur’an that pre-date 650 CE. What manuscripts would that be? Well it would be the four from Birmingham, that’s just one example off the top of my head that would be extremely relevant to the very topic at hand! Also, as pointed out in my paper to you, we do have 100% of the Qur’an from within the 1st century of hijrah. So, to the contrary, yes, a folio or two does add up when you end up with 100% of the text you were aiming to find.

You went on to argue:

“What’s more, Ehrman seems to suggest that these two folios, dated early, thus validate the entire Qur’an as being early. Using that criteria, would he be willing to accept that the 2nd century Bodimer Papyrus and the John Rylands fragments now validate all 27 books of the New Testament? Of course he won’t, and neither do we.”

Well that isn’t Dr. Ehrman’s argument, and although we do have the entire text from within the first century of hijrah, your argument is still bad. Why is it bad? Mostly because, if we quote the Dr., his assertion, and let me quote him here (something you were unable and unwilling to do for obvious reasons), was to say the following:

“My historical question is this. If these pages of the Qur’an do indeed show that the text of the Qur’an is virtually the same in, say 630-40 CE as it is in 1630-40 as it is in 2015, that would suggest that Muslims are indeed correct that at least in some circles (it would obviously be impossible to prove that it was true in *all* circles), scribes of the Qur’an simply didn’t change it. The made sure they copied it the same, every time, word for word.”

“And so back to my question. If Muslim scholars over the centuries – from the very beginning – made dead sure that when they copied their sacred text they didn’t change anything, why didn’t Christian scribes do the same thing???”

All he’s saying is that what was copied, would somewhat prove that it was copied correctly. I’m looking for where he does not say, “these pages of the Qur’an” and where he says “entire Qur’an”, and well, I can’t find it. Essentially, what Smith did, was open his mouth, make up something, argue against that made up statement and then cheer himself for winning an argument that he himself made. It’s just embarrassing and depressing.

3. Smith claims that the 4 folios (pages) do contain variants when compared with the Qur’an of today. To the contrary, the manuscript contains 0 variants (orthography aside). What it does contain are two words that the scribe changed from the reading of Ibn Masud, and Isa b. Amr and Al-Thahak b. Muzahim on lines 13 and 30, to the reading of ‘Uthman. Therefore, the manuscript, in its state as left by the scribe does conform to the Qur’an of today. Even if the scribe had preferred the reading of one word (واشدد), it is from the Qira’at of the Prophet (ﷺ) through Ibn Masud, or if the scribe had preferred the reading of the other word (طاوى) through Isa b. Amr and Al-Thahak b. Muzahim, it is also from the Qira’at, both of which are from the Qur’an. Therefore, by all measurements, there are no variants except for the notable difference in use of the letter “alif” which is due to orthographic development.

4. Smith claims that BBC sensationalized the story by leaving out the mention that the original scribe chose to conform to the ‘Uthmani recitation in two words. Since this is an autographic text and the scribe chose to write the text according to the ‘Uthmani rasm, then it is not a variant, as it already agrees with the modern text. If the scribe had chosen to keep the two different words (one due to use of an ‘alif), it would still conform as it is from the Qira’at of the Prophet (ﷺ), which the textual critic Alba of Birmingham University also mentions.

5. Smith refers to intentional changes to conform to the published edition from his friend’s Dan’s thesis, which I tore apart as being unqualified in my paper here. Not only does Dan confuse the orthography of the Arabic language with “intentional” changes, he seemed unable to find the most basic variants that belonged to the Qira’at. Most of his paper focused on him being unable to find the variants in the Qira’at literature, yet somehow I was able to find several and without much time.

6. Smith refers to orthographic differences as “scribal errors”. I suggest he reads any book on language development or of textual criticism. Lapsus calami, or scribal errors, do not include orthographic development. If that were the case, almost all medieval NT manuscripts would then have to be considered erratic en toto because of the shift of majuscule scriptio continua to miniscule polytonic. In other words, not only is he wrong, he spent 20 years not understanding the basics of textual criticism, for someone the age of all his years of study to correct him on it (me).

7. Lastly, Smith argues that Muslims have no complete manuscript of the Qur’an:

“…it is striking that we cannot find any complete manuscripts of the Qur’an at all from any of the vast area they dominated.”

I suggest he Google’s the term manuscript. The very folios we are looking at right now from Birmingham do contain a manuscript (folio, leaf, page) that has no lacunae (Smith, this term means gaps or missing data), the recto and verso of Mingana Arabica 1572a which contains Surah 20, is complete. You’re free to see the scans yourself, which I am sure you are able to access, as I have been. You’re free to point out to me, which lines from 1 to 40 on the manuscript are incomplete. At that point, when you realise you were wrong, feel free to contact me and I’ll forgive you and pray for you.

Spencer mentioned in his Jihad Watch article that the manuscripts from Birmingham cannot be dated so early due to the use of diacritical marks. However as Sadeghi has pointed out, this is a feature also from the Sana’aa C1 text:

“Surprisingly, the lower script on occasion appears to use what are possibly diacritics, in the form of perfectly round dots, to signify short vowel marks (and possibly elided alifs, i.e. hamzat al-waṣl). These dots are in the same ink as the rest of the lower writing and do not appear to have been added later.” – Arabica 57 (2010), page 359.

Why is this of significance? Well, because according to his latest datings, as linked to us by Goudarzi himself (Dr. Sadeghi’s research partner), Dr. Sadeghi dates Sana’aa C1 to the first half of the first century hijrah, the same as our Birmingham manuscripts. The same can also be found, in Qaf 47, which is also dated to the same time as our Birmingham manuscripts. In other words, Spencer is not a textual critic and as it stands, these non-Muslim textual critics seem to be in unanimous agreement about the early datings of several folios and their use of diacritical marks in the early hijazi script. Ergo, Spencer is wrong.

As a closing point, I’ve dealt with Spencer and Smith’s ridiculous claims and for the fun of it, I’ve decided to include my favourite Qadiani-Trinitarian into the mix. Nabeel, you cannot count, nor can you read. I’m sorry if you feel insulted by this, but you posted something wrong in public and it is my job to correct you when you slip up. Which these days, seems to be quite often.

wpid-wp-1438013490889.jpeg

The same goes to you as it did to Smith. There are no variants in the manuscript. None. Except, if we are to be pedantic, that there are changes the original scribe made, then at the very least we can stretch to say there are two “variants”. How 2 = 5, I do not know. Hopefully, once you solve the mystery of the Trinity, you can help me solve how 0 = 5 or, for the sake of argument, how 2 = 5. I’m afraid your logic does not follow with me, and I am pretty bad at math.

Addendum:

Br. محمد بن شمس الدين has done a nice comparison image of the folios for us and he has also created a handy image, explaining what some of the symbols and numbers mean (source).

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Lastly, another brother has created a PDF responding to each possible variant claim (mostly orthographic and from the qira’at) that any missionary can bring forth as an argument of “changes”. He has given me permission to publish it at my will. I will do so accordingly. It is in English and explains the Arabic quite succinctly.

and God knows best.

Understanding the Birmingham University’s Find of the Oldest Qur’anic Manuscripts

General Information:

The collection at Birmingham University is known as the Mingana Arabic 1572 collection. It consists of 9 manuscripts (leaves, pages, folios). Earlier today, Birmingham University re-classified the dating of 2 of the manuscripts from the collection. The collection was then split into two classifications: Mingana Arabic 1572a and Mingana Arabic 1572b.

The collection that was carbon dated to between 568 CE and 645 CE with a 95% probability is Mingana Arabic 1572a. This collection can be understood as follows:

  • It consists of 2 manuscripts (pages, leaves, folios).
  • Each manuscript contains writing on its recto (front) and verso (back).
  • The manuscript is made of parchment (goat or sheep skin).
  •  Of the 9 manuscripts, the 2 in this newly classified collection are manuscripts 1 and 7.
  • The style of writing or the script (orthography) is Hijazi (writing originating in the Western Arabic Peninsula).

The manuscripts are readable and its writing is easy to identify, Ilm Feed has produced a wonderful comparison:

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Another person has superimposed the modern text of the Qur’an over the text of one of the manuscripts, the accuracy is incredible:

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Click to Enlarge

Question and Answer:

Does this make it the earliest known Qur’anic manuscript(s)?

Yes, it does. The earliest manuscript before this was the C1 text of the Sana’aa Palimpsest (DAM 01 – 27), which dated to before 671 CE with a probability of 99%, before 661 CE with a probability of 95.5% and a before 646 CE with a probability of 75%. See Behnam Sadeghi, Mohsen Goudarzi, “Sana’aa and the Origins of the Qur’an”, Der Islam (2012), Vol. 87, p. 8.

Do these manuscripts contain vowels?

Yes, there are several dots and verse endings, otherwise known as “diacritical marks”. These however, may not have been written by the original “author” (scribe) and could have been added by a later one seeking to update the text or to make it readable.

What style of Arabic Script is it written in?

It’s written in Hijazi script, which is one of the oldest Arabic scripts known. It’s referred to as Hijazi because it was developed or most prominently used in the Western Arabian Peninsula’s region of the Hijaz (alt: Hejaz), which includes the cities of Makkah and Madina.

Do we know who wrote it?

In regard to the identity of the author or the scribe, or the amanuensis, we may never know their identity. It is equally probable that it was written by a Companion of the Prophet (ﷺ) during or after the Prophet’s lifetime (ﷺ), or by a student of a Companion.

Why split the collection into two different collections?

This is to help palaeographers and textual critics differentiate between the manuscripts they are studying and it is purely done for academic purposes. The other 7 manuscripts, remain dated to within the 1st century of the Hijrah (622 to 722 CE).

What parts of the Qur’an do these manuscripts contain?

Manuscript 1 (Recto/ Front) contains: Qur’an 19:91 – 20:13.

Manuscript 1 (Verso/ Back) contains: Qur’an 20:13 – 20:40.

Manuscript 7 (Recto/ Front) contains: Qur’an 18:17 – 18:23.

Manuscript 7 (Verso/ Back) contains: Qur’an 18:23 – 18:31.

I’ll update this post according to the questions received. If you’d like a question answered, send us a message or post it in the comments section.

and Allah knows best.

‘Oldest’ Qur’an fragments found in Birmingham University

According to a just published BBC News article, a recent re-dating of manuscripts of the Mingana collection at the University of Birmingham (UK), has led to another re-dating that places the manuscripts to between 568 CE and 645 CE with a 95% probability:

Radiocarbon dating found the manuscript to be at least 1,370 years old, making it among the earliest in existence.

The tests, carried out by the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, showed that the fragments, written on sheep or goat skin, were among the very oldest surviving texts of the Koran.
These tests provide a range of dates, showing that, with a probability of more than 95%, the parchment was from between 568 and 645.

“They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam,” said David Thomas, the university’s professor of Christianity and Islam.

“According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Koran, the scripture of Islam, between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death.”

Prof Thomas says the dating of the Birmingham folios would mean it was quite possible that the person who had written them would have been alive at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

“The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad. He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him personally – and that really is quite a thought to conjure with,” he says.

The collection consists of 9 folios, they are written in Hijazi script and have been carbon and palaeographically dated.

The collection has been split in two collections, now known as Mingana Arabic 1572a and Mingana Arabic 1572b. The collection that this article is about, is Mingana Arabic 1572a. The University has just updated the collection’s codifiction (classification). The “oldest” manuscripts, are 2 leaves (folios, pages) of the original 9 leaf (folio, page) collection. They have been both carbon and palaeographically dated.

The collection was re-dated several months ago to 1st century Hijri, and this is the second re-dating within a year, confirming it’s early dating.

Mingana Collection at Birmingham Uni. - Folio 1

Mingana Collection at Birmingham Uni. – Folio 1

More Information:

  • Mingana Collection (1572) before today’s latest re-dating can be found on Islamic Awareness.
  • Birmingham University’s scans of the Mingana Collection (1572), without updated information on re-dating, can be found here.
  • Birmingham University has updated the codification/ classification of the collection. The collection we are concerned with is now known as Mingana Arabic 1572a, which can be found here, and the other 7 leaves/ pages/ folios of the original 9 leaf/ page/ folio collection is now known as Mingana Arabic 1572b and can be found here.

I’d like to thank Br. Kaleef from Discover the Truth for bringing the BBC article to my attention, may Allah reward him accordingly, Ameen.

Article in Arabic (Br. Ahmed Shaker):

من جديد أخبار المخطوطات القرآنية المبكرة:

أوراق قرآنية مكتوبة بالخط الحجازي من مجموعة ألفونس منجانا بجامعة برمنجهام تم إخضاعها لفحص الكربوني المشع (C14) في أحد معامل جامعة أوكسفورد فكانت النتيجة أنه من المرجح بنسبة 95% أن تكون هذه الأوراق قد نشأت في الفترة ما بين 568م و645م = 56 قبل الهجرة إلى 24 هجرية.

تعليقات (ديفيد توماس) أستاذ المسيحية والإسلام في جامعة برمنجهام:
هذه الأجزاء من القران التي كتبت على هذه الرقائق، يمكن، وبدرجة من الثقة، إعادة تاريخها إلى أقل من عقدين بعد وفاة النبي محمد. إن الشخص الذي كتب هذه الصفحات لابد أنه عرف النبي محمد، وربما رآه واستمع إلى حديثه، وربما كان مقربا منه، وهذا ما يستحضره هذا المخطوط.

إن هذه الصفحات قريبة جدا من القرآن الذي نقرأه اليوم، وهو ما يدعم فكرة أن القرآن لم يعرف إلا تغييرا طفيفا، أو أنه لم يطرأ عليه أي تغيير، ويمكن اعادة تاريخها الى لحظة زمنية قريبة جدا من الزمن الذي يعتقد بنزوله فيه.

and Allah knows best.

The Bible says God was Imperfect, Ignorant and Disobedient

Theists tend to believe that God is perfect and without flaw, and this is a belief that many Christians share. The New Testament expresses this belief, it mentions:

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48.

It should be noted that this verse specifies that only one person of the three persons of the Trinity is perfect. I found this to be odd. Why doesn’t the verse say, “as the Son, Holy Spirit and Father are perfect?” Why does the verse only declare the Father to be perfect? Does this mean that the Son, is imperfect? As it turns out, it does mean that. The Bible explicitly teaches that the Son, who is a God, is imperfect and had to be made perfect, God had to become perfect. That’s quite a strange idea. How can God be flawed? When we read Hebrews 5:8-9, this is exactly what it teaches. The passages say:

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

There are quite a few things we learn from this passage.

  • God the Son, had to learn to be obedient and was thus disobedient at first.
  • God the Son, was imperfect and had to become perfect.
  • God the Son, could not grant salvation until He became perfect.

We should take note, that the passage begins with “Son though he was”, therefore qualifying that despite he is a God, these things happened. The author specifically uses this phrase to denote that the deity is being referred to, and that it is the deity of the Son which had to learn and become perfect. What is problematic is that according to the Trinitarian dogma, each person in the Godhead is co-equal. Therefore, if the Father is perfect, then the Son should be perfect too.

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However, as we have just learned, this is not the case. The New Testament explicitly states that the Son was imperfect, had to be made perfect, had to suffer and only when he suffered, then he was able to grant salvation. The New Testament teaches that God could not grant salvation of His own will, because He was flawed and imperfect.

and Allah knows best.

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