Category Archives: FAQS

Graphic: NT Reliability Comparison to Ancient Documents

Question:

This image has often been used to demonstrate the reliability of the New Testament. What is your response to this?

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Answer:

This infographic relies on two of the three defective principles that beginners make when it comes to textual criticism, namely the number of witnesses (manuscripts) and the age of the witness (manuscripts). I’ve previously written on these three defective principles as outlined by the textual critical scholar Leon Vaganay. Before we get into the textual critical problems with this infographic, we first need to examine the theological problems with it.

Theology

One of the first claims we normally associate with the use of this infographic bases itself on the fallacy of false equivalency. We are told that scholars and historians have no problem trusting and relying on the ancient works ascribed to Homer, Aristotle or Plato, so given that we have so many more manuscripts of the New Testament we should have even more trust and reliance on the New Testament as it compares to the quantity of manuscripts for the previously aforementioned ancient documents. The problem with this argument is that I don’t need the works of Homer, Aristotle or Plato for salvation. Rejecting, not reading, ignoring and discarding the works of those men does not affect my salvation, which is why we can generally rely on and trust them. Since whether or not they actually are reliable or accurate does not affect my life in any meaningful way.

However, when it comes to the New Testament, it’s a different story. We are told it contains the inspired words of God, that we need to rely and trust it for our eternal salvation, that denying and rejecting it would lead to our eternal damnation. The stakes here are quite higher. Rejecting the works of Tacitus does not send me to hell. Waking up one morning to find out that alterations were made to the writings attributed to Plato, has no consequence on me whatsoever. My entire worldview does not change, my salvation does not rest on my accepting or rejecting the works of Tacitus and Plato. Therefore, when it comes to theology, it is an honestly poor argument to make that if we can trust something that has no bearing on our salvation, then we can also trust something that allegedly has significant bearing on our salvation. This is a dishonest comparison by all means.

The Number

There are some 24, 000 manuscripts! That number is practically meaningless and useless for a number of reasons. To begin with, of the 24, 000 that this infographic claims exists, how many of them are within the first 300 years of Christianity? According to the  Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF) there are only 67 manuscripts in total existing from this time period. That figure represents 0.27% of the total number of New Testament manuscripts. The vast majority of New Testament manuscripts were written after the 11th century CE, some 1100 years after the Messiah. So while the number is big, it is misleading.

The Date

The number is misleading because it is juxtaposed with the date range of 40-70 years “between the earliest surviving copies”. Seeing 24, 000 juxtaposed with an early date range is extremely misleading, leaving the impression that the number correlates with the date range. In reality, there are only 7 New Testament manuscripts that fall into the first 200 years of Christianity, all of which are extremely fragmentary. That represents a figure of 0.029% of all New Testament manuscripts that can possibly be ascribed to the date range given in the infographic.

Conclusion

While the infographic does provide somewhat accurate information, its use of that information to argue for the reliability of the New Testament is both misleading and dishonest. The arguments derived from the use of this infographic don’t endorse the claim of the reliability of the New Testament, but rather demonstrates that many Christians simply do consider their scripture to be equal in weight to the works of ancient peoples. The very fact that they choose to argue that if we can trust the ancient manuscripts ascribed to Plato and Homer, therefore we can trust the New Testament is to also say that Plato’s and Homer’s work stand on the same credibility level as that of scripture inspired by God. Rather than defend the holiness of scripture, such an argument truthfully undermines it, while falsely comparing what should be the work inspired by a holy and all knowing God, to that of mortal men.

and God knows best.

 

Why do Muslims use sources they don’t believe in?

Question:

When Muslims quote the Bible, or quote scholars like Bart Ehrman who disagree with what Muslims believe, isn’t that cherry picking, a double standard?

Answer:

This answer can apply to any topic, regardless of the source or reference that a Muslim uses. When Muslims use sources like the Bible, it is not cherry picking nor a double standard to use it in their argumentation. This is because we have a standard of consistent truth. Regardless of what a source says, we agree and affirm when that source is correct. Consider the example of a flat earther (a person who does not believe the earth is a globe). If a flat earther told me that humans lived on the earth or that gravity was real, I would affirm those truths. I would not reject everything the flat earther says, simply because he is wrong in some of what he says.

Consider the example of a Jew who affirms that God is absolutely one. As a Muslim, I would affirm that such a monotheistic belief is a truth. Regardless of his other beliefs about the Prophets or about God, I am not going to reject monotheism merely because the Jew holds some beliefs I disagree with. Our standard of truthful affirmation remains consistent, we affirm the truth wherever it is, and reject the falsehood wherever it is. The ability to both accept and reject from a source is called rational discernment, or the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood. There is no rule or law which states that one must absolutely agree with everything a source says, this is a false impression to hold to. Being able to distinguish, discern is to remain consistent in one’s approach to works that someone may find things disagreeable with.

The same holds true to the Bible. A Muslim will gladly affirm that Jesus is the Christ as the New Testament mentions. It would be inconsistent to reject that Jesus is the Christ because the New Testament says so. Being able to discern between what we believe and don’t believe is to remain consistent in one’s theology. A long time Christian polemicist also received a similar question when he used and quoted Catholic works, when he himself is not a Catholic:

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The irony here, is that when this same individual sees a Muslim quoting the Bible he becomes angry and belligerent, often using insults. Yet in this comment of his, he affirms that it is perfectly fine to quote sources when and where they agree with one’s theology in common. He has no issue with it. As one of his colleagues would say, inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.

and Allah knows best.

Mythmaking of Early Christian History by Eusebius

Question:

A lot of what we know about the early Church comes from Eusebius, is he a reliable source of information?

Answer:

In his work, Praeparatio  Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel), Book 12, Chapter 31 is titled as follows:

“That it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment.”

Eusebius makes it clear that Christians have to necessarily lie, use falsehoods for the propagation of the Gospel message. It is therefore quite difficult to trust someone who is seen as a historian who openly argues that as a Christian, it is necessary for him to use falsehoods. This is not a teaching that is hidden away or poorly translated, this is someone making it absolutely clear that lying is necessary when it comes to the Gospel message. Chapter 31 reads as follows:

“But even if the case were not such as our argument has now proved it to be, if a lawgiver, who is to be of ever so little use, could have ventured to tell any falsehood at all to the young for their good, is there any falsehood that he could have told more beneficial than this, and better able to make them all do everything that is just, not by compulsion but willingly?”

Eusebius is referencing a Platonic argument from Plato’s Laws. This argument essentially means that it’s okay to lie, it’s okay to hold a false belief, if in the end the lie benefits someone morally. An example of this is to teach the Gospel message and even if the Gospel message is false, invented, a myth, by believing in this lie, someone may stop being promiscuous. They may stop stealing due to their belief in a false Gospel message. The person does not know the Gospel message is false, they believe it to be true, and so despite unknowingly believing in a false teaching, they still morally benefit in the end.

Plato’s Laws

Eusebius is referencing the following argument from Plato found in Plato’s Laws (translated by R.G. Bury 1926):

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The Greek phrase we need to focus on is, “ἀγαθῷ ψεύδεσθαι” (agatho pseudesthai):

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Which he translates as follows, “useful fiction”:

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Plato puts forth the idea of “ἀγαθῷ ψεύδεσθαι”, or as translated, “useful fiction”. Eusebius then borrows this idea and applies it to Christianity, with the conclusion being that it is necessary to lie  as a Christian because even if the belief is false, a useful fiction, in the end a person is morally better off due to believing in that lie. As he (Eusebius) argues, “is there any falsehood that he could have told more beneficial than this“.

Christian Apologists on Eusebius’s Controversial Argument

In “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus”, by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, they offer a re-contextualizing of what Eusebius said. Their argument can be summarized as claiming that Eusebius’s use of the phrase, “ἀγαθῷ ψεύδεσθαι” (useful fiction, falsehood, lie), does not mean what the text says. They begin by saying on page 275:

“It may be helpful to look at the Greek employed. The word used by Plato is pseudos, which typically means a lie or imitation”.

They acknowledge that the standard use and meaning of the word, “ψεύδεσθαι”, is one of dishonesty. After establishing the normal use of the word, they attempt to argue that Eusebius (in quoting Plato), meant to argue for a “good lie”.

“However, Plato’s context and the passage may justify a nuance for the following reasons: (1) Plato uses the term, “good lie” (agatho pseudesthai), eliminating harmful intent.”

They continue:

“One translator renders the term as “useful fiction,” instead of “falsehood” (Plato in Twelve Volumes, 12 vols, R.G. Bury, trans.[Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1914-1935], 10.125).”

The leaps in reasoning they make are quite ridiculous to say the very least. A good lie, is still a lie. Though the intent may not be harmful, to say that it is necessary to use fiction and falsehoods to achieve some moral goal, does not preclude the fact that he argues that it is necessary, required, obligatory to use falsehoods to convince people of the Gospel message. For some odd reason, they found it important to mention that one translator uses the term “useful fiction” instead of “falsehood”. I’m not sure why they found that this difference in translation needed to be mentioned as the end result is still that Eusebius argued for the necessity of fiction and falsehoods within the Christian faith.

Usage of “ψεύδεσθαι” (fiction, lie, falsehood) in the New Testament

There are some 12 occurrences of this word in various forms throughout the New Testament, every instance of which uses it in the context of dishonesty:

  • Matthew 5:11, “…against you falsely, for my sake.”
  • Acts 5:3, “…your heart to lie to the Holy…”
  • Acts 5:4, “…in your heart? You have not lied to men…”
  • Romans 9:1, “… in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience…”
  • 2 Corinthians 11:31, “…God, I lie not.”
  • Colossians 3:9, ” Do not lie to one another…”
  • 1 Timothy 2:7, “…the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher…”
  • Hebrews 6:18, “…for God to lie, we who have taken refuge…”
  • James 3:14, “…do boast against and lie against the…”
  • 1 John 1:6, “… in the darkness, we lie and do not practice…”
  • Revelation 3:9, “…that they are Jews and are not, but lie— I will make…”

Thus, the normative use of the term in the New Testament literature, agrees with the aforementioned conclusion that it refers to dishonesty, falsehood and lying.

Conclusion

From having read both Plato’s use of the argument and Eusebius’s copying and appropriating of it, the end result is that:

  1. It is a necessity to use falsehoods to spread the Gospel message,
  2. because it is better to believe in a falsehood that makes you morally pure,
  3. than to live and behave unjustly.

Even if Eusebius had good intentions, he still considered it a necessity to lie about Christianity to win converts, for him, the ends justify the means. It would therefore be difficult to believe that his writings are historically accurate and objective. His representations of competing groups of Christian sects may not be impartial, and there is no way to validate his version of early Christianity.

and God knows best.

 

 

Ask the People of the Book?

Question:

Many missionaries often quote Qur’an 10:94 as proof that they have true knowledge about God, and this verse proves that Muslims must depend on Christians and Jews to understand the Qur’an, Islam and God. How do we respond to this?

Answer:

It is important to first begin by understanding this passage. Qur’an 10:94 reads as follows:

“So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters.”

The passage does not state that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was in doubt, nor does it state that the Muslims should be in doubt. The passage then concludes by commanding that we should never doubt the Qur’an, “so never be among the doubters”. This passage therefore, does not give authority to modern-day Christians to be judges about the truth of Islam. To argue this, would be to ignore the entirety of what the passage says. Tafseer Maar’iful Qur’an comments about this passage:

In the third verse (94), the address is obviously to the Holy Prophet (ﷺ‎). But, it goes without saying that there is no probability of his doubting the revelation. Therefore, the purpose is to beam the message to the Muslim community through this address where he is not the intended recipient. Then, it is also possible that this address may be to human beings at large asking them if they had any doubts about the Divine revelation sent to them through Sayydina Muhammad al Mustafa (ﷺ‎). If they had, let them ask those who recited the Torah and Injil before them. They would tell them that all past prophets and their Books have been announcing the glad tidings of the Last among Prophets. This will remove their scruples and suspicions.

The Qur’an specifically identifies who is to be asked. This may come as a surprise to many people, but the missionaries who often misuse this verse are unaware that their is a specific person the Qur’an referred to at the time of its revelation in nascent Islamic Arabia. The Qur’an in 46:10 states:

“Say, “Have you considered: if the Qur’an was from Allah, and you disbelieved in it while a witness from the Children of Israel has testified to something similar and believed while you were arrogant…?” Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.”

The Qur’an clearly states that there was a witness from among the Children of Israel who testified to the truth of the Qur’an at the time of the Prophet (ﷺ‎). Therefore, when the Qur’an in 10:94 speaks of asking those who knew the previous messages sent by God, the Qur’an directly informs us that there was indeed a witness that confirmed what the Qur’an said from the People of the Book! The Qur’an therefore, does not identify modern day Christians, whether they be Protestants or Catholics as the people that the Qur’an in 10:94 referred to. Tafseer Maar’iful Qur’an comments about Qur’an 46:10 as follows:

“The statement by Sayyidina Sa’d (رضي الله عنه) reported in some narrations of Bukhari, Muslim and Nasa’i, that this verse was revealed about Sayyidina Abdullah Ibn Salam (رضي الله عنه) and the same statement from Ibn Abbas (رضي الله عنه), Mujahid, Dahhak, Qatadah (رضي الله عنه), etc. is not against this verse being Makki, as in this case, it will be a prophecy for the future.”

In conclusion, Qur’an 10:94 asks a hypothetical and rhetorical question: if anyone is in doubt about what the Qur’an says, then they should ask those who know the previous revelations. The Qur’an then tells us who should be asked in 46:10, and it identifies a witness (who was known at that time) to be the one who is knowledgeable about the previous scriptures, and that this person confirmed the teachings of the Qur’an. Either way, this verse does not give authority to modern day Christians to judge about the truth of Islam, such an interpretation ignores the verse’s context and it’s overall message as it fits into the Qur’anic narrative. Should a missionary raise Qur’an 10:94, they should duly be informed of Qur’an 46:10.

and Allah knows best.

 

 

Have Christian Scholars Abandoned the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy? Yes!

Our esteemed Br. Yahya Snow has published a video with Christian apologist, Dr. Michael Licona agreeing that there are contradictions, irreconcilable contradictions in the New Testament:

Another prominent Theology Blogging website, aptly named Blogging Theology, highlighted this and many other claims of errancy within the Bible by Dr. Licona here. To make matters worse, the infamous Christian polemicist Sam Shamoun has declared that he no longer knows whether or not Dr. Licona is a true believer:

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Not to be outdone, his close friend and student, Robert Wells (who once threatened to massacre innocent civilians if the voices in his head told him to do so) goes a step further and declares that he doesn’t even know if Dr. Licona is a Christian at all:

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Picture taken from Blogging Theology by Paul Williams

Given that Dr. Licona has been a cornerstone for Christian apologetics, the swift excommunication of him by ardent Christians has come as a shock to the interfaith community. Have conservative Christian scholarship collectively given up on the doctrine of inerrancy? In this other recent video, that is exactly what Dr. Licona has done:

He’s not alone, even Dr. William Lane Craig has lowered the bar, so lowly, that he’s said this:

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I’ve written an article on his statements here. Below is a video recording of him including the above statement and expanding on it:

At the end of the day, the sun has set on a major pillar of Christian apologetics. The view of Biblical inerrancy is quickly becoming a view of the past and Christianity of today now finds itself without certainty in scripture.

and Allah knows best.

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