Category Archives: FAQS

The Preservation of the Qur’an Explained in Detail

Br. Adnan Rashid and Br. Mansur have delivered an exceptional lecture on the preservation of the Qur’an. Dozens upon dozens of common claims made against the Qur’an’s preservation are completely and totally refuted in what can only be described as having been done in an academic yet accessible form:

I would highly recommend this lecture for those who are interested in the Qur’an’s preservation. I would also recommend subscribing to the channel that the video is posted on, they have excellent content and even better videos will be appearing soon.

and Allah knows best.

Easter Message: Death has Dominion, Mastery and Power over the Christian God

It’s Easter, so today you’d be seeing a lot of celebrations over God’s “victory over death”. Slogans en masse such as, “He is Risen!” Perhaps though, one of the most popular verses of the Bible one would see is as follows:

  • For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. – Romans 6:9 (NIV).
  • We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. – Romans 6:9 (ESV).
  • knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. – Romans 6:9 (NASB).
  • because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. – Romans 6:9 (HCSB).

That last line is of great interest. If death no longer rules over God, does it mean that death at one point have power, dominion, mastery, rule over God? Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, says of this passage:

“death hath no more dominion over him: it once had dominion over him; it held him under its power for a time, according to the divine determination”

If God is all powerful, then how is it possible for death to be greater than God, to have power and mastery over God? Some Christians have tried to explain this by saying that God allowed Himself to “temporarily surrender” His own dominion over death, but this leads us to the inevitable problem of the Christian God losing one of its attributes, thus rendering God, powerless. What’s worse is, if God gave up His power over death, and then death overcame God – it would stand to reason that death would be more powerful than God and thus God could never “defeat” death.

In conclusion, this passage is vital for a Muslim’s da’wah to Christians. They quote it and share it, which makes it easier for us to reach out to them. This passage leads to unsettling beliefs for the Christians, God sets up rivals to Himself, God loses essential attributes, God is no longer all powerful, or at the least it can lead them to denying the hypostatic union (two natures in Christ, one divine, one human), by them arguing that death had power over one of the natures – the human or the divine, which is in itself blasphemy since the natures are unified and it is heresy to split them apart.

In contrast, in Islam, God is the master of life and death:

“How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned.” – Qur’an 2:28.

and Allah knows best.

Palm Sunday in the New Testament

Given that today is Palm Sunday, I decided to read the Gospels’ narratives of the day that Jesus allegedly rode into Jerusalem. When one reads the stories as they are presented going from Matthew to Mark to Luke to John, there’s a trend that cannot be ignored.

If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And (he will send – αποστελει) them immediately. – Matthew 21:3 (NRSV).

The text here in Matthew reading that the owner will send the colt immediately.

If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will (send it back – αποστελλει παλιν) here immediately.’ – Mark 11:3 (NRSV).

The text here in Mark reads that the person sending the colt is Jesus, he is sending it back or returning it. The word being used here is παλιν (palin) to differentiate between sending, and sending back or returning. How then does Luke treat this narrative? Who does he decide is the one sending the colt? He fixes this contradiction by omitting the second quote of Jesus in the passage altogether, his version reads:

If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’ – Luke 19:31 (NRSV).

That leaves us with the Gospel of John, does this Gospel break the tie between Matthew and Mark to let us know which version is correct? Not exactly, John takes a different approach. Instead of the version presented in Matthew, Mark and Luke, John’s version omits the request sending altogether and in its place has Jesus finding a donkey himself:

Jesus (found – ευρον) a young donkey and sat on it; – John 12:14 (NRSV).

I suppose one lesson we can take away from Palm Sunday as it is written in the New Testament, is that if there’s a contradiction, one easy and quick way to solve it is to just omit the contradiction altogether.

and God knows best.

A Brief Insight into the New Testament’s Prototyping

The New Testament of today is described as follows regarding the NA28 GNT:

“The intention of this edition lies not in reproducing the “oldest text” presented in the oldest manuscript but in reconstructing the text of the hypothetical master copy from which all manuscripts derive, a text the editors refer to as the initial text.”1

We should therefore understand the New Testament not to be the word of God, but the hypothetical reconstruction of the “word of God”, a prototype, a possibility of what the reconstruction of the initial text may have looked like. When one examines the earliest manuscripts, we quickly find a trend that cannot be sidelined or ignored, the earliest witnesses place us in the late 2nd to 4th centuries CE:

New Testament Diagram Final (1)

The graph above concisely breaks down what books of the New Testament have as their earliest surviving (extant) witnesses. It also conveniently breaks down the New Testament into its genres and text types. The vast majority of manuscripts are from the 3rd century CE, meaning that the reconstructed prototypes give us a picture of what these completed texts may have looked like during or beyond the 3rd century CE. What is most notable, is that one of the earliest surviving sources attests to 9 books. That does not bode well for multiple attestation. Other books find their earliest witnesses in the 4th century including 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, 2 John and 3 John. These all indicate an intermediate or initial text projected into the 3rd century, some may say the 2nd century. Scholars have long noticed this trend of a later developed text, with one notable scholar explicitly stating:

Our critical editions do not present us with the text that was current in 150, 120 or 100—much less in 80 CE.2

Regarding new methods and changes in the NA28, a 2016 publication by the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society confirms the following:

The application of the CBGM resulted in 34 changes to the main text of
the Catholic Epistles and a slight increase in the number of passages marked as
uncertain. In most cases the changes are of minor significance for interpretation
or translation, but in several cases the changes should not be ignored. At the
difficult variation in Jude 5, for example, the text now reads that it was “Jesus”
(Ἰησοῦς) who once saved a people from Egypt instead of “the Lord” (ὁ κύριος). In
another important change, 2 Pet 3:10 now prints a reading that is not found in any
known Greek witness. Where the previous edition read that the last days would
mean that the earth and all that is in it “will be found” or perhaps “exposed” (εὑρεθήσεται), the text now reads the opposite: the earth and all that is in it “will not
be found” (οὑχ εὑρεθήσεται). The latter reading sits much easier with the surrounding context, but is only attested in a few Coptic and Syriac manuscripts.3

What the data, methods and current status of New Testament Textual Criticism indicates is that we have a text that is much later than is traditionally espoused. The stemmata indicate we currently have reconstructions of a textual form between the late 2nd to 4th centuries CE. There is now an increase in uncertainty regarding the variant units, in other words confidence has been lost in several cases. In other cases we find texts that affect theology or which textual critics indicate are important changes which are labelled as “difficult”, the consequences of which cannot and “should not be ignored”.

We also see in the aforementioned quote that texts now essentially teach the opposite of what they once said! All exegeses commentating on the previous reading have now been rendered invalid by a text reading in the opposite direction altogether. In one other notable case, we also now find a reading in the text that has no manuscript support whatsoever among any known Greek witnesses. All of these trends do not paint a good picture for the state of the New Testament’s reliability. The text of the New Testament today, is not the text known to those at any other time in the past, which brings into doubt their salvation. If  believing in scripture is a criterion for salvation, and the text believed then is not the text now, can we say those in the past truly believed in and embraced the “living word of God”? If the text that penetrated them for guidance is not the text of today, then does it matter at all what the New Testament says?4

Sources:

1 – Trobisch, David. A User’s Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament. 9th ed. (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013), 10.

2 – Petersen, William Lawrence., and Jan Krans. Patristic and Text-Critical Studies: The Collected Essays of William L. Petersen. (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 410.

3 – Gurry, Peter J. How Your Greek NT Is Changing: A Simple Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM). Vol. 59. Series 4. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 2016, 684-685.

The title of this journal’s essay should not be ignored. The text of the New Testament is indeed changing, to say otherwise is to ignore the very existence of the critical editions.

4 – Hebrews 4:12.

Many commentators have said that the Bible is the living word of God, a scripture that penetrates us spiritually and guides us. If that is the case, then if the text changes, we have to ask, what form of the text is actually the living word of God? If an edition previously caused spiritual changes but is now changed, does that invalidate its spiritual guidance or does it indicate that the changes are wrong and the edition is correct? It’s a dilemma either way, which definitely brings into severe doubt the ideas of scripture, salvation and the work of a living word of God among Christian believers.

Is the Qur’an Easy to Understand?

Question:

Christians and those who disagree with the Qur’an often cite the verse which claims that the Qur’an is clear to understand. They ask, if the Qur’an is clear and easy to understand, why are there so many different interpretations of it?

Answer:

The questioner also submitted the following clip as an example:

Dr. James White says:

“I don’t know, it’s [sic], the, the Qur’an claims to be mubeenun ummm [sic] which means clear, perspicuous, but this text is not clear and perspicuous, which is a problem because it’s been misused.”

He is probably referencing a verse such as this (emphasis ours):

“Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the verses of the Book and a clear Qur’an.” – Qur’an 15:1.

The Qur’an however, qualifies and explains, what’s clear and to whom it is clear in understanding (emphasis ours):

It is He Who has revealed the Book to you. Some of its verses are absolutely clear and lucid, and these are the core of the Book. Others are ambiguous. Those in whose hearts there is perversity, always go about the part which is ambiguous, seeking mischief and seeking to arrive at its meaning arbitrarily, although none knows their true meaning except Allah. On the contrary, those firmly rooted in knowledge say: ‘We believe in it; it is all from our Lord alone.’ No one derives true admonition from anything except the men of understanding. – Qur’an 3:7.

The Qur’an clarifies that not everything in it is understandable to everyone. It further clarifies that its verses are clear to men of understanding who are, “firmly rooted in knowledge”. Hence, claiming that the Qur’an is clear to everyone is not true and wholly incorrect.

Let us then, now consider some examples. Someone may ask, why would God reveal a verse that cannot be clearly understood? God says that He sustains Himself, while this informs us of the nature of God, as humans it is difficult for us to grasp how anything can sustain itself and not depend on anything for its livelihood. Humans need food, animals need food, computers need electricity, cars need oil and gas, but God needs nothing. While we cannot wrap our heads fully around this concept, we still have learned about the nature of God.

We must also then consider the example of a car of which the manufacturer says it is the easiest to drive. Someone purchases the car and then crashes it. Does that make the manufacturer’s statement false? No, it does not. It means that the driver has made a mistake and despite the car’s handling being easy, the fault lays with the actions of the driver.  The same is with the Qur’an, while the Qur’an has been made clear and easy, it does not mean that everyone will have the ability or capacity to understand it.

and Allah knows best.

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?

nt_reliability1

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.

 

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