Islam acknowledges that scripture was given to the Christians and Jews, we call such people, “Ahlul Kitab” or the “People of the Book”. However, where we disagree, begins with the very understanding of what the Bible is. To the Muslim, the Torah was given to Moses and the Gospel to Christ. This is, as the Qur’an says in Surah 5, Verse 44 and Verse 46. The Qur’an explicitly states that the Injeel was a scripture given to Jesus from God. No Christian today believes that the New Testament was given by Jesus to his disciples. These are therefore, distinct books. The New Testament is not the Injeel. As Muslims, we believe that both Christians and Jews today both do not have in their possession the original Torah or the original Gospel.
We don’t make this claim simply because we can, but we make this claim due to the evidences we possess. To begin with, the Qur’an states in Surah 2, Ayah 79 and in Surah 5, Ayah 13 that both the Jews and the Christians corrupted their “scripture” which they wrote of themselves and then claimed those writings to be from God. This might seem odd to some Christians that the Bible is a corrupted, and manufactured “scripture”. You may be asking if the Muslim is able to defend such a claim. We can and it’s simple. One example I am fond of using is the following argument, it goes a little something like this:-
Can you tell me which Old Testament you believe in?
- Greek Septuagint.
- Hebrew Vorlage based on the Septuagint.
- Masoretic Text.
- Samaritan Pentateuch.
- DSS/ Qumran Scrolls.
- Mystery Source of the Greek Septuagint.
Can you tell me which New Testament you believe in?
- Marcion’s Canon.
- Tatian’s Diatesseron.
- Codex Sinaiticus.
- Textus Receptus.
- Codex Vaticanus.
- Codex Alexandrius.
- Codex Bezae.
- Codex Syriac.
- Codex Washingtonesis.
- Nestle Aland Greek New Testament Codices through to the 28th Edition..
- UBS 1 through 5 Greek New Testament Editions.
- John Mill’s 1707 Greek New Testament Codex.
- Codex Ephraemi-Rescriptus.
- Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament (1881).
The problem is, there is no “one Biblical text” that all Christians agree on. What you call the Bible today is a translated text based on Greek, Arabic, Syriac and even Ethiopian writings. All collected and pieced together. What you call the Bible in 2014, is not what the first Christians called it some 2000 years ago. Namely because the New Testament didn’t exist until the writings of Paul began some 14 years after Christ ascended. At the earliest, the Bible was decided upon by what was called an Ecumenical Council or a “Unity Council”, today known as the Councils of Carthage in 393 and 397 AD. Yet, every Bible since that time, has varied, with no two remaining the same. Thus, what the Bible exists as today, is not considered to be the Bible which Christians in any previous century have believed in. The Bible is still evolving to this day, with both conservative and liberal Christian scholars attempting to define what the Bible “could” have looked like according to what each textual critic’s understanding of the text could have or should have looked like.
A new critical edition of the New Testament, means that textual critics examine the manuscript variants which occur in words and passages. They examine these variants and then through a select criteria, they attempt to ascertain which variant is the most authentic. In some cases, as in the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament, when scholars do not find any of the variants to be accurate, authentic or valid they invent their own reading which has no manuscript basis. This is known as “conjectural emendation”. In the Westcott and Hort New Testament, this was done some 65 times. As such, this would mean that as variant words and passages continue to be argued over, the New Testament text continues to evolve every few years as the critical editions are released, as with the latest Nestle Aland and United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testaments. This is due to the textual critics employing what we know as the “eclectic method”. As a consequence of this method, there is not a single codex on the face of the earth that has existed with in the form of the New Testament we have today. The New Testament we have today is based on variants from hundreds of differing manuscripts and variant codices. The truth is, if the Christian scholars of today and those of the past still cannot decide on what the Bible is or what it was or what it will be, why should Muslims accept it as their scripture?
This case begets another problem, as the God of the Old Testament, proclaims that there is one eternal word of God, in Psalms 119:89, it reads:
“Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.”
Which word is it referring to? There are so many canons and codices to choose from, none being the same from the first complete codices in the third century to those of today. How can you ask the Muslim to accept, what the Christian faith itself cannot decide upon?
wa Allaahu ‘Alam,
First Published: 6/ 8/ 12. Error noted by the missionary Paulus in which I wrote KJV Codex. I’m not sure on which basis I made that error, but it has since been corrected.