Second Debate Review: Bob Siegel vs Ijaz Ahmad, “Which is more reliable – NT or Qur’aan?”
Br. Zakir Hussain of the Muslim Debate Initiative has reviewed and critiqued my performance against that of Bob Siegel in our recent radio debate. It’s quite a read, but it’s interesting to see the thoughts of a seasoned debater on what many deem to be a controversial debate:
I would firstly like to thank brother Ijaz for the excellent work he has been doing on his blog and for his great performance against respected Christian apologist Pastor Samuel Green.
After listening to this recent debate and realizing that Bob Siegel hasn’t changed his approach since his performance against Brother Shadid Lewis I thought I would give a brief review of his next encounter with Brother Ijaz Ahmed. I will try to comment on some of the points presented in the order they were made in the debate. One point I would like to say is that it was quite hard understanding a lot of Ijaz Ahmed’s opening statement and rebuttal as it seems his mic or phone line was not very clear. In fact I had to keep replaying some parts in order to try to make out what he was saying so I think this was something that worked against Ijaz in this debate.
Now Bob started off with the usual cheap argument that the Quran teaches that the Bible is the word of God. I think Bob must have Surah 2:75-79 missing in his personal manuscript of the Quran and also Surah 5:13 and 4:157 which refers to his New Testament as CONJECTURE. After this first erroneous point Bob than claimed that although the Quran confirms the Bible, at the same time it also contradicts it. For example the Quran denies Jesus is God yet on the other hand Jesus (AS) allegedly claimed to be God. If Bob had an accurate understanding of what the Quran teaches he would know that the Quran does NOT confirm the entire scriptures of the Jews and Christians. If you read the Tafsir of Surah 5:48 for example you will find the following:
(Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
Ibn Jarir said,
“The Qur’an is trustworthy over the Books that preceded it. Therefore, whatever in these previous Books conforms to the Qur’an is true, and whatever disagrees with the Qur’an is false.”
So if as Bob says the New Testament teaches that Jesus is God, than the Quran does not confirm this part of the New Testament and in fact the Quran responds to the Christians regarding the New Testament teaching that Jesus is the son of God:
9:30. The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!
So the first reason Bob gives for a positive case for his Bible fails miserably. As even brother Ijaz in his rebuttal period mentioned Surah 2:79 to Bob and no response was given by Bob.
Bob than preceded to show how the New Testament fulfils Old Testament prophecies such as Isaiah 53. One thing that was very surprising was Bob made the claim that Isaiah 53 says that the anointed one (Messiah) will come and die for our sins, but Isaiah 53 nowhere mentions the Messiah. At first I thought this might have been a slip of the tongue but then Bob mentioned this again and again. So I would challenge Bob to show us where Isaiah 53 mentions the Messiah. There is a difference between Christians claiming it is speaking about the Messiah and Christians saying that the text itself mentions the Messiah.
He also mentioned Daniel 9 predicting the exact time of when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. It’s unfortunate that Bob doesn’t know that Daniel 9 is not speaking about one anointed one but is actually speaking about 2 anointed ones. I recommend he reads a book by Rabbi Tovia Singer entitled Let’s Get Biblical where on pg.114 he goes into great detail demonstrating from the Hebrew how the text speaks of 2 anointed one’s. Not only this but he gives a different timeframe of when the 70weeks actually starts and ends hence it doesn’t line up with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. As far as Bob quoting from Josephus. This was where I realised that it seems that Bob hasn’t done his homework at all as many scholars today recognise that much of the material present in the quote of Josephus are actually what they would call a “pious fraud”. In other words some Christian added to and interpolated into the quote of Josephus. Bob also quotes from the Talmud to establish that the New Testament is corroborated by other non-Christian documents but historians like Josephus and the Jews of the Talmud did not have any independent sources regarding Jesus but were just simply repeating what they had heard from Christians so this hardly makes the case for the New Testament any stronger.
So we see that Bobs whole opening statement was riddled with error after error on the other hand let’s see how Ijaz approached this topic.
Ijaz started off by mentioning a key difference between the Quran and the New Testament. Namely the fact that the Quran was viewed as scripture right from the get go and as such Muslims started learning it and studying it from the start whereas on the other hand the NT was not seen as scripture from the start and it actually took years before it started getting viewed as inspired documents. Ijaz mentioned that the Quran was transmitted in 2 ways, namely in oral form and also in written form with both forms complementing each other. He then asked Bob regarding which NT he deems reliable as in the early years and actually for centuries Christians had different books in their canon and this phenomenon is actually the case with Christians today. One can compare the canon of the Protestants with the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian churches. They differ with each other. An excellent question that Ijaz posed to Bob was regarding Psalms 119 which says that the word of the Lord is written in heaven on a tablet (us Muslims also believe this). Ijaz then asked which version of the OT and NT are written on this tablet. I must say I was disappointed with Bob avoiding the question and instead speaking about translations and how 99% percent of manuscripts he trusts are reliable etc thus avoiding the question.
Another excellent point Ijaz made was that the Disciples of Jesus did not have a NT to guide them nor did they have anything but the OT for their guidance so why do Christians need the NT if the disciples didn’t. So these are some of the points mentioned in the opening statement. After this point the debaters had questions posed to them.
The 1st question posed to Ijaz was regarding the transmission of the Quran i.e. who wrote it and how it came to us and when was it written. Ijaz responded with the fact that the Quran was being written down by the companions and followers of the Prophet from the earliest years of its revelation as the story of Umar (RA) visiting his sister who had secretly embraced Islam and who had a written copy of a certain chapter with her thus confirming that it was being written down very early.
Bob than responded by claiming that the Quran was neither written down nor compiled in the Prophets lifetime. It seems that Bob once again must have a missing verse in his personal manuscript of the Quran namely
80.11 Nay, but verily it is an Admonishment,
80.12 So let whosoever will pay heed to it,
80.13 On honoured leaves
80.14 Exalted, purified,
80.15 (Set down) by scribes
Bob was accurate regarding the Quran being compiled together after the Prophet (PBUH) had passed but all of it had been written in the Prophets lifetime and in his presence but it was only put together into a book form by his right hand man Abu Bakr (RA).
Bob than quoted Ibn Umar (RA) to try to show that Ibn Umar believed that much of the Quran was lost but as brother Ijaz rightly pointed out that Ibn Umar was speaking about the fact that some verses and recitations of the Quran were abrogated. What we have in the Quran today is the same as what the Prophet recited to angel Jibreel twice in the last Ramadan of his life.
Bob then in response to the claim by Ijaz that the NT was not seen as scripture in the early years tried to show how the disciple of Jesus Peter claimed in 2nd Peter that the letters of Paul are inspired like the OT. First off Bob should know that biblical scholars are almost unanimous that 2nd Peter was not written by the disciple Peter but by an anonymous person who forged this letter in the name of Peter. He can read the book by Bart Ehrman entitled Forged or even check out the arguments presented by Bruce Metzger regarding 2nd Peter. It must also be mentioned that this is not just a modern view but even early church fathers were in dispute regarding whether 2nd Peter was actually written by Peter. I would ask Bob to give us some proofs that any document in the NT is written by an apostle. I am confident that apart from some of the letters of Paul the rest of the NT has no solid proof that it was written by any apostles. Ijaz also mentioned that 2nd Peter is attributed to the 2nd century by some scholars as opposed to the first century as Bob thinks.
We now move on to the part of the debate where the moderator asked both speakers regarding the internal consistency of their scriptures. Ijaz proceeded to show how the Quran is clear and consistent on the first commandment namely that God is one in an absolute sense and how Islam and Judaism both do not believe in human substitution sacrifices and concepts such as the Trinity. At this point it would have been good to hear Ijaz speak about how the Quran itself in Surah 4:82 mentions that if it was not from God than surely it would have contradictions.
Bob mentioned that the Quran has many contradictions of which he could only bring up his wild theory that the Quran confirms the Bible yet contradicts it which has already been refuted above and in the debate by Ijaz who mentioned Surah 2:79.
The next question was regarding Paradise according to both scriptures of which Bob mentioned that both Islam and Christianity have a similar concept of paradise and both believe you must follow the ways of God to reach paradise. Bob mentioned that before the time of Jesus people like Moses and Abraham worked with animal sacrifices to cleanse their sins. What is remarkable is that Bob contradicted Jesus as Bob claimed that Abraham didn’t know about the coming of Jesus yet according to the Gospel of John Jesus allegedly said
8:56 your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
So Bob needs to explain why he contradicted Jesus. Was it a slip of the tongue or have I misunderstood what he was trying to say?
After this Ijaz once again asked Bob regarding Psalms 119 which states that the scriptures of the Lord are preserved in heaven, so which scriptures according to Bob are preserved? Is it the Masoretic text or may be the Qumran scrolls, Codex Sinaiticus or may be Vaticanus? I must confess I did not hear Bob answer.
The last part of this debate I would like to touch on is how Islam spread. Ijaz claimed it was because of the power of the Quran whereas Bob on the other hand claims it was because of the Sword. So I will ask him something the late great Sheikh Ahmed Deedat asked Anis Shorrosh in 1988. Which Muslim army went to Indonesia with the sword and which army is now in America and Europe where Islam is the fastest growing religion? Ijaz pointed to verses of the Quran such as 2:190 which give the context of warfare in Islam but Bob claimed that the Quran contradicts itself on peace and war where in one place it says be peaceful and in another place it says pick up the sword.
Has it not crossed Bob’s mind that just like the pre Exodus period of the life of Moses (AS) where he did not fight but after the demise of Pharaoh Moses and the Israelites conducted military operations and much like the 1st coming of Jesus where allegedly according to Bob Jesus was a pacifist but on the other hand when Jesus returns in his 2nd coming he will be a warrior with a sword as Bob confirms and Jesus confirms in Luke 19:27. Than in the same way Prophet Muhammad resembled Moses and Jesus in their first period whilst he was in Makkah but in Madina he was in the position of Moses after the Exodus and Jesus in his 2nd coming where he could fight against the disbelievers on behalf of God in the context of Ayah’s such as Surah 2:190 which Ijaz mentioned. It’s silly for Bob to quote Jesus telling Peter to put his Sword down as he who lives by the sword dies by the sword and interpret it in the way he has that Jesus was teaching pacifism. If this is the case than I have 2 questions for Bob
1) Who told Peter to purchase a sword in the first place?
2) if you interpret the statement of Jesus that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword the way you have than please explain if people like Moses and Joshua and David who all waged wars with swords died by the sword.
Isn’t it better to see what Jesus meant how the early Christian commentators understood it that what Jesus meant was think before you pull out the sword and don’t be brash with it rather than how you understand it that Jesus was condemning his followers to use a sword period.
So in summary I think it’s clear that in this debate Ijaz put Bob on the spot and under pressure a few times by posing questions that Bob kept on evading such as which NT is on the tablet mentioned in Psalms 119 and why do Christians need the NT when the disciples and early Christians didn’t need it. Its times like this when I believe apologists should be honest and just admit that they don’t know the answer. I mean none of us knows everything so wouldn’t it have been better for Bob to just say to Ijaz that I can’t answer your questions but I will research them and get back to you. Rather than just talk about other things and act like he was addressing the questions. Does it hurt one’s pride to just say I don’t know?
I am also pleased with the way Ijaz showed how the Quran is more reliably transmitted than the NT as it was written and memorised from the start and the key difference between both books is that the Quran was recognised as the word of God from the very beginning unlike the NT.
So all in all I think that apart from the issues of the audio of Ijaz’s mic that overall this was a good dialogue and praise must be given to Ijaz for his good approach. As for Bob I think he needs to research his claims more rather than just copy and paste arguments such as the Quran approves the Bible from google. I must say though that I do respect Bob as he seems sincere and is a charismatic speaker and I can tell he loves God and has a thirst for the truth. So I pray that Allah guides him to the straight path of the Prophets which is Islam In Sha Allah.