Christians often argue that since the Qur’an is 600 years after Jesus, it is a less reliable witness than the New Testament. How do we respond to this?
Consistency is key here, and the response is quite simple. The Christian accepts the first five books of the Old Testament which are usually attributed to Moses (عليه السلام). Yet, these books contain histories ranging from hundreds of years to thousands of years before Moses (عليه السلام) is alleged to have written them. Some Christians consider the accounts in Genesis 1 regarding the creation of the universe to be a historical account. Others consider it to be a phenomenological rendition of the creation of the universe. Either way, Christians accept these accounts as accurate despite the distance (disparity) between the time of Moses (عليه السلام) and that of the creation of the universe.
Consistency is key. Moses (عليه السلام) lived several generations removed from that of Noah (عليه السلام). Yet Christians accept and view the account of Noah (عليه السلام) in the Old Testament as a historical witness. The account of Noah (عليه السلام) is far more than 600 years between himself and Moses (عليه السلام) , yet Christians do not doubt an iota of what the Old Testament says. If we apply the scales of consistency regarding this topic, it would be seen that Christians do not adhere to a sensible methodology for judging what is and what is not historical. Theologically speaking, when it comes to matters of revelation, time is irrelevant. Since God is all knowing, it can be inferred that when He inspired Moses or Muhammad (عليه السلام) to write about the past, then it is assumed that what they wrote was historically accurate.
If missionaries applied the same criteria to their scriptures, they’d have to deny them as well as declare them as being historically inaccurate due to the gaps of time between the events themselves and the later authorship which recounted them. It should also stand to reason that not all accounts closest to an incident would be accurate, and that there exists the possibility of a later writing based on a stronger oral tradition. In such a case, the closest account may be inaccurate but the later writing could be more accurate. In conclusion, this is a very poor argument and it is an excellent example of poor thought processes.
This answer is only in response to the argument of time being used, that is, the number of years between Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Jesus (‘alayhi as salam). It isn’t about whether Muslims consider the New Testament historical, or if Christians consider the Qur’an historical, or whether the histories of either writing corresponds with each other. This answer is only in response to the argument by Christians that 600 years is a factor in accepting or rejecting history.
and God knows best.