Tag Archives: faqs

Is the Canonization of the NT a Divine Proof?

Question:

Missionaries often claim that the canon of the New Testament was not decided by a Council, and that its authors were guided by God. They also claim that since a Council was not needed and that all of Christendom accepted the books, it is a divine proof from God that Christianity is the truth. How do we respond to this?

Answer:

This is factually incorrect. The proto-orthodox Church whose canon of scripture later came to be known as the New Testament, did in fact have two Ecumenical (Unity) Councils regarding the canon of their scripture. The Councils of Carthage in 393 and 397 CE respectively, are historically considered to be when the Church ‘confirmed’ the canon. Most Christians seem to be unaware of these Councils and so make this claim that the canon was not decided by any Council, and so the emergence of their scripture is a divine truth. Even if we were to forego these two Councils, this is in itself a poor argument. This argument, is in essence stating that a divine truth does not need a Council to determine beliefs.

However, Christianity’s history is replete with Ecumenical Councils regarding the very basic tenets of their faith, most notably those of Nicaea, Constantinople and Chalcedon. Thus, if the lack of Councils demonstrate divine truth then the very existence of the aforementioned Councils discount Christianity’s most foundational beliefs as divine truths. As absurd as this argument may seem, I myself have experienced it firsthand. I recall an incident some years ago with a group of Jehovas Witnesses came to preach to us and we had a discussion regarding errors in the New Testament. One Elder quipped that the canon was determined by God, and that no human chose their canon. To say the least, that discussion did not last very long once they learned of Carthage.

Interestingly, Islam did not need any Councils to determine our beliefs. Thus, if a missionary was consistent, the lack of Councils in Islamic history to determine our beliefs is an evidence of the divine truth of Islam. This argument actually discounts Christianity as a divine truth and establishes Islam as the truth. Yet, given that so many missionaries use this argument one does have to wonder if they truly ponder what they’re saying before they say it. It’s truly quite a peculiar argument that seems to be extremely common. Unfortunately it’s also quite a bad one.

and God knows best.

 

 

Understanding the Birmingham University’s Find of the Oldest Qur’anic Manuscripts

General Information:

The collection at Birmingham University is known as the Mingana Arabic 1572 collection. It consists of 9 manuscripts (leaves, pages, folios). Earlier today, Birmingham University re-classified the dating of 2 of the manuscripts from the collection. The collection was then split into two classifications: Mingana Arabic 1572a and Mingana Arabic 1572b.

The collection that was carbon dated to between 568 CE and 645 CE with a 95% probability is Mingana Arabic 1572a. This collection can be understood as follows:

  • It consists of 2 manuscripts (pages, leaves, folios).
  • Each manuscript contains writing on its recto (front) and verso (back).
  • The manuscript is made of parchment (goat or sheep skin).
  •  Of the 9 manuscripts, the 2 in this newly classified collection are manuscripts 1 and 7.
  • The style of writing or the script (orthography) is Hijazi (writing originating in the Western Arabic Peninsula).

The manuscripts are readable and its writing is easy to identify, Ilm Feed has produced a wonderful comparison:

cc-2015-ilmfeedminganacomparison

Another person has superimposed the modern text of the Qur’an over the text of one of the manuscripts, the accuracy is incredible:

cc-2015-minganaimposed

Click to Enlarge

Question and Answer:

Does this make it the earliest known Qur’anic manuscript(s)?

Yes, it does. The earliest manuscript before this was the C1 text of the Sana’aa Palimpsest (DAM 01 – 27), which dated to before 671 CE with a probability of 99%, before 661 CE with a probability of 95.5% and a before 646 CE with a probability of 75%. See Behnam Sadeghi, Mohsen Goudarzi, “Sana’aa and the Origins of the Qur’an”, Der Islam (2012), Vol. 87, p. 8.

Do these manuscripts contain vowels?

Yes, there are several dots and verse endings, otherwise known as “diacritical marks”. These however, may not have been written by the original “author” (scribe) and could have been added by a later one seeking to update the text or to make it readable.

What style of Arabic Script is it written in?

It’s written in Hijazi script, which is one of the oldest Arabic scripts known. It’s referred to as Hijazi because it was developed or most prominently used in the Western Arabian Peninsula’s region of the Hijaz (alt: Hejaz), which includes the cities of Makkah and Madina.

Do we know who wrote it?

In regard to the identity of the author or the scribe, or the amanuensis, we may never know their identity. It is equally probable that it was written by a Companion of the Prophet (ﷺ) during or after the Prophet’s lifetime (ﷺ), or by a student of a Companion.

Why split the collection into two different collections?

This is to help palaeographers and textual critics differentiate between the manuscripts they are studying and it is purely done for academic purposes. The other 7 manuscripts, remain dated to within the 1st century of the Hijrah (622 to 722 CE).

What parts of the Qur’an do these manuscripts contain?

Manuscript 1 (Recto/ Front) contains: Qur’an 19:91 – 20:13.

Manuscript 1 (Verso/ Back) contains: Qur’an 20:13 – 20:40.

Manuscript 7 (Recto/ Front) contains: Qur’an 18:17 – 18:23.

Manuscript 7 (Verso/ Back) contains: Qur’an 18:23 – 18:31.

I’ll update this post according to the questions received. If you’d like a question answered, send us a message or post it in the comments section.

and Allah knows best.