Tag Archives: corruption

An Example of Tahrif (Corruption) in the Bible

Muslims are often told that the corruption of the Bible as Muslims believe in, cannot be demonstrated. Simple examples of taḥrīf (corruption; technically: to move something from its place) are generally dismissed as copyist errors which do not affect the overall meaning of the message, though it does need to be pointed out that at some point there will be enough small changes that they aggregate into meaningful differences. If it was the case that many small changes were ineffectual in the validity of scripture (its meaning and authority) then either it is the case that the scripture itself is so vague and impactless that changes don’t matter on a macro scale or it is the case that the changes do eventually matter because the sanctity and preservation of scripture matters.

The Qur’ān makes a few claims regarding the taḥrīf of the Bible:

“Do you ˹believers still˺ expect them to be true to you, though a group of them would hear the word of Allah then knowingly corrupt it after understanding it?” – 2:75 (trans. by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

“But they broke their covenant, so We condemned them and hardened their hearts. They distorted the words of the Scripture and neglected a portion of what they had been commanded to uphold. You ˹O Prophet˺ will always find deceit on their part, except for a few. But pardon them and bear with them. Indeed, Allah loves the good-doers.” – 5:13 (trans. by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

Prof. Adam Gacek writes in his Vademecum (pp. 31-32) regarding the definition of the word taḥrīf:

2. distortion, error, usually involving either transposition of letters within a word, e.g. علم/ عمل or شقر /شرق , or mispronunciation, e.,g. طغرا /طرة (MU, X, 57; MQ, 641: al-taḥrīf bi-al ziyādah aw bi-al-naqṣ); falsification (of a text), comp. al-qalb al makānī, taṣḥīf.”

Regarding “al-taḥrīf bi-al ziyādah aw bi-al-naqṣ”, this means a change by means of increasing or by decreasing (letters, words, passages, etc).

Let’s now proceed by looking at an example of a simple change of one word in which it was swapped with a word of the opposite meaning. At first we will look at a Jewish translation (CJB; emphasis mines), then at Christian translations (ESV, NIV; emphasis mines).

Now it would come about when the cycle of the feasting days would be over, that Job would send and summon them, and offer up burnt-offerings early in the morning burnt- offerings according to the number of all of them, for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and blasphemed God in their hearts.” So would Job do all the days. – Job 1:5 (CJB).

“And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed[a] God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. – Job 1:5 (ESV).

Now the Hebrew text (MST – Masoretic Text):

וַיְהִ֡י כִּ֣י הִקִּיפוּ֩ יְמֵ֨י הַמִּשְׁתֶּה֜ וַיִּשְׁלַ֧ח אִיּ֣וֹב וַֽיְקַדְּשֵׁ֗ם וְהִשְׁכִּ֣ים בַּבֹּקֶר֘ וְהֶֽעֱלָ֣ה עֹלוֹת֘ מִסְפַּ֣ר כֻּלָּם֒ כִּ֤י אָמַ֣ר אִיּ֔וֹב אוּלַי֙ חָטְא֣וּ בָנַ֔י וּבֵֽרְכ֥וּ אֱלֹהִ֖ים בִּלְבָבָ֑ם כָּ֛כָה יַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אִיּ֖וֹב כָּל־הַיָּמִֽים:

The word used in the English is “blasphemed”, the word used in Hebrew is H1288 or the word for “blessed”. “Blasphemed” and “blessed” are words with the opposite meaning, so what happened here? The CJB offers little explanation (at least the digital version I checked), but the ESV rightly has a footnote there:

Job 1:5 The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9

As this footnote explains, this issue has arisen in multiple places within the text of Job, at a count of at least four (4) times. They do offer one explanation, the word bless is used euphemistically to mean curse. Yet, is this true? Not exactly, the NET in Translation Note #30 says (emphasis mines):

The Hebrew verb is בָּרַךְ (barakh), which means “to bless.” Here is a case where the writer or a scribe has substituted the word “curse” with the word “bless” to avoid having the expression “curse God.

For similar euphemisms in the ancient world, see K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 166. It is therefore difficult to know exactly what Job feared they might have done. The opposite of “bless” would be “curse,” which normally would convey disowning or removing from blessing. Some commentators try to offer a definition of “curse” from the root in the text, and noting that “curse” is too strong, come to something like “renounce.”

The idea of blaspheming is probably not meant; rather, in their festivities they may have said things that renounced God or their interest in him. Job feared this momentary turning away from God in their festivities, perhaps as they thought their good life was more important than their religion.

This would be less of a problem if the entire story of Job did not rest on the meaning of this one word. In the Bible, Satan challenges God by claiming that the only reason the Patriarch Job is so faithful to God, is only due to the blessings which God had bestowed upon him (wealth, a good family, good health, etc). Satan then suggests to God, that should God take these blessings away from Job that Job will then either curse God (if the translations are right) or that Job will bless God (if the edited Hebrew text is right). In other words, either Satan wins the challenge against God or God wins the challenge against Satan.

Given that Job ends up cursing God and repenting for it, and given the use of the original Hebrew word of “curse” (i.e. the word before the scribes changed it to bless in the Hebrew), this would mean that Satan won the challenge against God.

The Challenge by Satan (Job 1:11 – NIV):

“But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Job’s Admission of Cursing God (Job 42:1-3 – NIV):

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

Interestingly, the NIV has no footnote to indicate that the word should be read in its opposite (and therefore in its original) meaning. To further illustrate this point, the Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments says (emphasis mines):

Job 42:3. Who is he that hideth counsel? — What am I, that I should be guilty of such madness? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not — Because my mind was without knowledge, therefore my speech was ignorant and foolish; things which I knew not — I have spoken foolishly and unadvisedly of things far above my reach.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says (emphasis mines):

42:1-6 Job was now sensible of his guilt; he would no longer speak in his own excuse; he abhorred himself as a sinner in heart and life, especially for murmuring against God, and took shame to himself.

In conclusion, this is striking because the Qur’ān teaches:

There are some among them who distort the Book with their tongues to make you think this ˹distortion˺ is from the Book—but it is not what the Book says. They say, “It is from Allah”—but it is not from Allah. And ˹so˺ they attribute lies to Allah knowingly. – 3:78 (trans. by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

and Allah knows best.

Does God Regret Making Humans?

Yesterday I had a debate with a Christian apologist on the topic of ‘Noah and the Flood’. In my opening presentation (which can be seen here) I pointed out that the story of Noah begins in Genesis 5 and at the start of Genesis 6, the God of the Bible informs us as to His reasons for the flood. It’s in looking at this reason for the flood that I noticed a curious difference, the story (of God’s regret) is present in Christian English translations of the Bible, in Jewish English translations of the Hebrew Bible, in the Hebrew Masoretic Text but it is absent from the Greek Septuagint. Why is this important?

The Greek Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew (Old) Testament into Greek (another term for the Greek Septuagint is the LXX). At the time of early Christianity, it is the Greek Septuagint that most of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament come from. In other words, the authors of the New Testament books chose to use the Greek Septuagint over any Hebrew form of the Old Testament. Some modern Christians believe that any form of the Old Testament is the inspired word of God, though the truth is that modern Christians don’t accept the Hebrew Masoretic Text or the Greek Septuagint but rather a combination of the two textual traditions. In other words, neither the Hebrew Masoretic Text by itself, nor the Greek Septuagint by itself can honestly be said by any Christian to be the unaltered, inspired words of God as He revealed them. It is only a hybrid version of the Hebrew Masoretic Text, the Greek Septuagint and the Dead Sea scrolls which the modern Christian reads and believes in. This is best summarized in the examples I gave regarding a portion of the Shema Yisrael back in 2017:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Jewish English Translation of Genesis 6:6 (Rabbi AJ Rosenberg):

And the Lord regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and He became grieved in His heart.

Source: https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8171/jewish/Chapter-6.htm

The Christian English Translation of Genesis 6:6 (NIV):

The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

Source: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+6%3A6&version=NIV

At this point, both translations say roughly the same thing, but that is until we take a look at the Greek Septuagint, which the New Testament authors would’ve used. Let’s look at the Lexham Greek Septuagint (H.B. Swete Edition), it says (emphasis mines):

καὶ ἐνεθυμήθη ὁ Θεὸς ὅτι ἐποίησε τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ διενοήθη

The English translation (as published by Oxford University Press) says (emphasis mines):

then God considered that he had made humankind on the earth, and he thought over it.

Source: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/01-gen-nets.pdf

One translation (by Lancelot Brenton; a later 1987 edition) of the Greek Septuagint at this passage says:

then God laid it to heart that he had made man upon the earth, and he pondered [it] deeply.

The problem being that the word for heart is absent in the Greek altogether (at least in the Septuagint versions I have checked myself). Having said that, at least one commentary, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says about Genesis 6:6 –

It was the dread of any expression being liable to the suspicion of irreverence towards the Almighty, which led to the strange renderings of this verse by the later Jews. Thus, LXX renders “repented” by ἐνεθυμήθη = “considered,” and “grieved” by διενοήθη = “purposed,” while the Targum of Onkelos renders the second clause “and spake by his word to break their strength according to his will,” and Pseudo-Jonathan, “and disputed with his word concerning them.” The object of such paraphrases is to avoid anthropomorphism. The LXX also avoids the expression of repentance as applied to God in Exodus 32:12.

Source: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/genesis/6.htm

Where does this leave us?

It would mean that the earliest Christians (especially the New Testament’s authors) used a form (or version) of the Old Testament that today’s Christians would consider to have been tampered with and corrupted.

and God knows best.

Corrections in Early Qurʾān Manuscripts: Twenty Examples – Dan Brubaker

cc-2019-db-correctionbookcover

A recent publication by Dan Brubaker has received quite serious praise from a crowd of individuals who do not seem to have read it and those that have read it cannot seem to articulate what about it was meant to be praiseworthy in the first place. Having read it myself roughly a week or two ago, I forgot about its existence as I was thoroughly nonplussed about its contents, I proceeded with my Ramadan (and subsequently my Eid) until today when I thought to myself that perhaps I can do a very brief review of the work in an effort to put to some use the time I invested in having read the very short book.

To begin with, I have had several interactions with missionaries who seem to consider this book to be one of the greatest literary pieces ever published, yet I cannot seem to find anyone who is able to explain to me why this is the case. Most of my conversations about this work have followed generally the same line of reasoning:

This book proves that the Qur’an is corrupt and has not been preserved!
Can anyone reference the page on which this claim is made?
No.

This book is groundbreaking because it shows that the Qur’an has changes to it!
Changes in the sense that someone somewhere inserted a word or verse or chapter into one of these manuscripts which eventually came to be seen as part of the Qur’an today? No.

Changes that show the early Muslims had a different Qur’an!
A different Qur’an in what sense?

That it contained different words that they had to correct!
Do you mean the words which were omitted by the initial scribe, noticed and then corrected by the same scribe (or in some cases, later ones)?
Yes.
That doesn’t make it a different Qur’an then, all that makes it is someone writing, making an error while writing and then correcting that error.

But it is an intentional change!
Well yes, I would imagine that if someone wrote something and realised they made an error that they would have intentionally chose to correct it.

He says that some of the corrections were later!
Not exactly, he only comes to this conclusion because the nib (writing tip of the writing instrument – think of a lead pencil’s point) was different, the same scribe could have had more than one nib, especially if they were untrained and prone to error, as some of the manuscripts clearly demonstrate some scribes were untrained. It is also possible that there was an initial scribe with one writing instrument (think of a pen, or a pencil), what scholars call the initial scribe or the prima manus and then there was a corrector or secunda manus reviewing the work of the first scribe who used a different nib or the same nib (but due to difference in writing ability their corrections were more noticeable). Therefore a difference in the nib (writing instrument) or in the stroke of the hand of the scribe (or corrector) would appear different but would not necessitate it being centuries later (that conclusion is a matter of interpretation and not one of a factual or immutable nature).

These are how most of my conversations have gone, indeed one specific conversation comes to mind where a missionary could not believe I had read the book so quickly because it took years of research to write. He could not grasp that a man can take 100 years to write a book, but that it does not mean it takes 100 years to read it. I have tried to understand what missionaries find so impressive about the book, it has been difficult to find one that has actually read it. I was able to find one and some of his reasons were as follows:

It is impressive because he shows that corrections were made.
Is he the first person in the world to recognize that authors (scribes) can make mistakes and then correct their mistakes?
No.

Is he the first person in the world to study Qur’anic manuscripts?
No.

Doesn’t he thank Islamic Universities, libraries and institutions for help with his manuscript studies?
Yes.

Didn’t he claim to have consulted Islamic scholarly works on understanding some corrections?
Yes.

So what exactly was impressive if he was not the first to notice any of these things and especially that he received help from pre-existing Islamic literature and Arab-Islamic institutions on this topic?

On the other hand however, what I have managed to notice is that from those who have actually read the very brief book, there is a trend they have all noticed. There are four things to note:

  1. These corrections were allegedly made in different cities.
  2. At different times.
  3. By different scribes.
  4. Towards the accepted Qira’at of the Qur’an.

If the argument was that the Qur’an which is read today was a recent invention (though this is not the argument he himself makes), then how is it possible for all of these different people, in different places, in different times to invent the exact same Qira’at of the Qur’an as we have it today? The only reasonable and sensible conclusion is because they had the same Qur’an, they could not all make the same corrections towards the text of the Qur’an as we have it today, if they did not know what the correct Qira’at of the Qur’an was in the first place. In other words his short book is not a proof of anything negative about the Qur’an, rather it is a proof that scribal errors made by unknown scribes (and in many cases, clearly untrained in Arabic nahw) were seen as such and did not enter into the authentic and well-known transmissions Qira’at of the Qur’an.

The fact that Muslims read these individual copies and went to the effort to ensure they were properly written, demonstrates their careful concern for the accurate transmission of the Qur’an, if they had left the errors without correction then that would have been a cause for concern. In many cases, Dan’s inability to understand Arabic nahw allowed him to choose examples which didn’t make much sense, especially in the cases where:

  1. The scribe omitted or repeated a word due to confusing it with another verse (homoeoteleuton or homoeoarcton).
  2. The scribe omitted or repeated a word due to copying the letters as shapes (unable to understand what they are writing, they are able to identify shapes but don’t know words or what the words mean).
  3. The owner preferring another Qira’ah and requesting it be changed to that reading.

What is perhaps the most intriguing is that these errors before being corrected were exclusively done to singular manuscripts which when compared to manuscripts from the same time period, it can easily be seen that contemporaneous manuscripts do have the correct reading and do not have the same error, thus certifying that these were not legitimate readings that were long forgotten, but that they were genuine errors that were supposed to be corrected.

All in all, nothing about the book is novel, nothing about it is ground-breaking and nothing about it affects any beliefs that Muslims have about the Qur’an, to the contrary it serves as a good evidence for the preservation of the Qur’an that after almost a decade of research for the sake of advancing Christianity, and with a team of volunteers behind him, he could find only 20 examples of corrections stemming from largely untrained scribes. On the other hand, that we have early manuscripts of the New Testament from professional publication houses (scriptoria) with text-clusters (multiple manuscript traditions from the same time period) showing significant and meaningful changes, and additions, demonstrates to us why the missionaries need to inflate meaningless corrections to obfuscate from the faith-crisis they are experiencing.

and Allah knows best.

Scribal Habits Between the New Testament and the Qur’an

In Mark 14:68-72 (NIV) we read:

“68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.”

Around the 5th century CE scribes thought it was odd that verse 72 mentions a rooster crowing a second time but that the Gospel narrative does not mention a rooster crowing a first time. Since Jesus was said to have predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed twice, it would not make sense to them that it had not mentioned the first crowing. The scribes of Codices Alexandrinus, Ephraemi-Rescriptus and Bezae all added in after verse 68 as quoted above, a small but important addition:

και αλεκτωρ εφωνησεν which is “and a rooster crowed”.

This is typical narrative gap filling, but it also shows how much they were willing to play with the text to affirm what they think were prophecies. Compare this with the Qur’ān in 2:143 which reads:

“We assigned your former direction of prayer only to distinguish those who would remain faithful to the Messenger from those who would lose faith.” (translation by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

The command for the change of the Qiblah is not in the Qur’ān, but the rebuking of those who rejected the change is. If the scribes of the Qur’an did not uphold the sanctity of scripture as we do today, then we should find that at verse 142 the command to change the Qiblah (direction of prayer) would be written.

Thus the words of the Qur’ān are quite salient, that in the end, one purpose of scripture is:

“…to distinguish those who would remain faithful to the Messenger from those who would lose faith.”

and God knows best.

Textual Criticism Versus Evangelical Beliefs

There has been a trend of late where evangelical apologists are trying to normalize the cc-2018-sitenews-clashingheadsuse of textual criticism in their understanding of the New Testament. This however, leaves them in an untenable position trying to balance the divergence of textual critical axioms, arguments and evidences with those of their normative faith. This can be seen with apologists such as Dr. White, Dr. Licona and Dr. Wallace. All three are studying or have studied textual criticism to some degree and there stands a myriad of obvious issues that need be sorted out.

Consider the case of the nature of revelation itself. On a recent Dividing Line program Dr. White along with Dr. Brown chose to argue that the Greek Septuagint was stronger in its wording than the Masoretic Text and Dead Sea Scrolls were when it came to prophecies about Jesus (John Calvin notably argued the same for Paul’s use of the Septuagint and its associated divergences). The obvious issue here is that according to their own classical beliefs, the Old Testament was not revealed (and written) in Greek. Surely then, according to the confessions, it is traditionally understood that inerrancy primarily refers to the autographs. In other words, God chose the men who wrote the “books” of the Old Testament in a specific language. God chose men, again, according to their beliefs to word scripture to the best degree of accuracy and understanding possible. How is it then possible that a translation by unknown people can represent scripture better than the people that God chose to represent His teachings for Him? That does not make sense. Yet this is the position they now hold to, a position that is absolutely advantageous for Muslims doing da’wah.

Then there is the other argument of the Old Testament (as per the program responded to here), that it descended to us in various streams and that different scribes (as well as copyists) chose one variant over another because they completed the exposition of a verse better, as Dr. White referred to it, “sermonic expansion”. So there was addition to the text, addition not by the initial authors whom God chose, yet somehow this is not corruption. Odd reasoning here. Clearly cognitive dissonance at work. What then do we make of the claim that there were different streams? Yes, we agree, but did God intend to give authority to each stream? If that was the case then the later Masoretic Text would have authorial primacy and importance, rather than a translation in the form of the Septuagint that came before it, if we were to consider it with respect to chronology. Yet we find most Christian apologists referring and giving importance to the Septuagint while wholly ignoring the Latin and Samaritan texts, are those too not viable streams? Who then, gave the scribes authority to choose from those streams? Those anonymous and unknowable scribes? Again, problems arise.

What then do we make of the claim that there existed actual men within the first century by the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who would be considered the initial authors? Isn’t it the case in New Testament Textual Criticism through stemmatics and philology that each Gospel is a composite work, the result of more than one author in various periods throughout history? How then can Matthew be one man and yet many, not existing at one time, but many simultaneously? Yes, I do recognize such thinking to be absurd, which is why I find it almost impossible to take anyone seriously who argues for a singular, inspired authorship, yet still accepts – at the same time – that there were multiple authors to one text as is the standard position. Yes, you are right in asking that no right thinking evangelical would accept composite authorship, yet today in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, the standard critical text that the aforementioned men believe in, contains conjectural emendations. These are instances where the textual critic has decided that their version of a passage best represents the original without any manuscript evidence for their version ever having existed. Surely, today’s evangelicals don’t hold to the position that the folks on the Nestle-Aland committee are inspired by God, so wouldn’t that then confirm they accept the words of multiple people for one Gospel, rather than one individual from the 1st century? It does, yet again we arrive at a problem.

So while I am happy that today’s Christian apologists are becoming more liberal towards the New Testament and affirming the Qur’an’s claims about their attitude to Scripture, I also mourn for the aloofness that abounds otherwise.

and God knows best.

Response to Dr. James White’s Dividing Line Show on Jan. 9th 2018

Please note – I have quoted Martin Luther in this video and he has many anti-Semitic statements towards the Jewish people. I have only quoted him to provide context for statements made in response to Dr. White. I do not endorse or encourage use of Luther’s hateful views.

See the Presentation that Dr. White is commenting on here.

For more information on the event, see this link.

For the corruption of the OT and NT, according to Islamic beliefs, see this link.

and God knows best.

« Older Entries