In many - if not most - Islamic books dealing with religious matters, the Bible is depicted as being totally untrustworthy. We do not want to investigate the obvious reasons for this approach, but do have to point out, that by far the majority of statements are either based on ignorance, or are made against better knowledge or at best depend on information selected in a very biased way. Although we would have preferred to generalise, we shall have to mention a couple of authors, since we must quote in order to substantiate what we say.
In the book "The Light" by al-Haj Sultan Hafiz Abdul (revised by Maulana Syed Zia-ud-Din Ahmad Gilani) we are told that the synoptic writers (i.e. the three recorders of the Gospel that are more historically orientated and as such are rather similar in comparison to the fourth recorder, John, who looks at the events from a more elevated position) of the Gospel are Paul, Luke, Matthew and John. Actually there are only three; John's part of the Gospel is the exception; and Paul did not write an account of the Gospel at all! The "synoptics", as every Christian of even rudimentary learning knows, are: Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Christians rightfully look at "learned men" like this with suspicion, for they cannot make an acceptable contribution. We find it, however, extremely tragic that millions of Muslims get their sole information about the Bible from such uninformed or dishonest men, who build their arguments entirely on one-sided, sifted and selected knowledge, or who argue against better knowledge.
We must, however, hasten to add that by no means all Muslims argue in this rather base spirit. We shall confine our analysis primarily to one book, which is typical in its anti-Christian stance, is relevant to our situation, and is reasonably comprehensive.
The following arguments, queries and also quotations are taken from "The Bible - Word of God or Word of Man?" by Sheikh A.S.K. Joommal, formerly of Pretoria and now of Johannesburg.
In the foreword Mr Joommal is introduced as
The malicious slander against Islam, we take to be the Bible - a book that is pre-Islamic!
In his criticism, he follows the line of so-called "modern theology", which no doubt, supplied him with the required data. In addition he wrongly supposes that the character of the Bible must essentially be based on the same concept of revelation ("nazil") that Muslims believe in. This is indicated in the following sentence:
This is not quite consistent with early Islamic concepts:
If we judge this quotation rightly the Good News (or 'Gospel') was given to Jesus. It does not say in writing. It also does not mention the language. These were "set down" in writing by the Apostle John. Part of this record is then used (rather falsely, however) to show a prediction concerning Mohammed in the Gospel. Nowhere is the authenticity and purity of John's record questioned by Ibn Ishaq (A.H. 85-151). The only real problem is that the quotation is not from original documents but from a rejected, corrupt text, the so called 'Palestinian Syriac Lectionary', as stated in the translator's foot-note.
In the quotations of Mr Joommal the emphasis is on the original language, which in the case of Islam is, of course, Arabic. To the Muslim the Qur'an is in fact a collection of every single word, commandment, etc. that Allah gave to Mohammed. To many the Hadis is also seen as inspired in its words and actions. It adds knowledge to and interprets the Qur'an, making it possible for practising Muslims to read the most detailed information about their prophet and his words and actions, which they then may follow. Whether every word that Mohammed said was recorded, is another matter, however. Muslims look at the Bible as they would look at the Qur'an. This is misleading, for such an approach does not allow for statements such as the greetings or advice on questions about life and faith in the Biblical "Epistles". In the opinion of Muslims such statements belong rather to the Hadis. We must make our Muslim friends aware of this. All that God wanted to convey to man in His Word, has been conveyed. It is in the hands of every Christian today. There is no room for additions or improvements. Even in the Qur'an we fail to see any improvements to the Bible.
We are told, however, that
It is alleged that practically all versions of the Bible have differed from one another and no-one knows yet which is right.
Again and again Christians are asked why there are so many versions. Muslims are surprised to hear that these versions are nothing other than different translations of the same original documents. The 'Authorised' or 'King James Version' dates back to the year A.D. 1611. With the changing of a living language a revision became necessary. In addition to that, many more manuscripts had since been found. Some verses were contained in some of these manuscripts, but not in others (see pp. 17ff.). These texts appear in italics in the 'Revised Versions'. To grasp the extent of these passages in relation to the whole text it ought to be said that besides two portions of 12 verses each (Nos. 5. and 6. on pp. 19-20) and two verses which are omitted for being repetitions (Mark 9:44 and 46 are repeated by vs.48), eight sentences or portions thereof (4) without any bearing on the message or meaning of the text are in question. This makes out 0.1% of the 7959 verses of the New Testament!
Some translations are aimed at great accuracy for the scholar; others are in a popular style avoiding less common words or phrases, catering for the young or less educated reader who is interested in the biblical story and its teaching rather than in theological concepts. The message and content of all is much more identical than the different translations of the Qur'an (i.e. Yusuf Ali, Dawood, Marmaduke Pickthall, George Sale, Rodwell, Arberry etc.).
The intimate knowledge claimed by Muslims concerning these things perplexes us. We note, however, that there is little or no substantiation for these claims. The "best known" Bible scholars and commentators referred to are men who are totally obscure personalities.
The fact that Islam has never tolerated textual criticism of the Qur'an, makes it easy for Muslims to assume that all theologians that practice the "higher (or formal) criticism", (not to be confused with textual criticism!) must surely give a true reflection of the Bible. That this is not so, is common knowledge, for "higher criticism" is based on philosophical speculations and makes for arbitrary statements, very often with no Biblical foundation. Speculative theology in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries has created vast numbers of claims and speculations, which were neither Biblical nor ever substantiated and were never taken seriously by Christians. To draw material from such theology puts the Bible in a totally false light.
Muslims, however, have concluded that:
Muslims also ask, referring to the Authorised Version, Revised Version and others,
We have to stop for a moment to consider these allegations.
First of all, the Word of God was not revealed to Jesus. He IS the revelation of God and He IS the Word of God. That is even supported by the Qur'an (Suras 4:171 and 3:45,59).
Then we would have to ask the categorical question: WHEN, WHERE And by WHOM was the Bible changed? Even the Qur'an bears witness that the Torah and the Gospel were definitely in existence during Mohammed's time (pp. 5-6). It goes against the facts to claim that the Bible was changed thereafter.
The Qur'an claims to be sent to guard the former revelations (Sura 5:47-51) and states explicitly that the Torah and Gospel are revelation. That means they came from God and are consequently His Word. The Qur'an also states strongly that no one can change the Words of God (Suras 6:34 and 10:64).
The writings of the New Testament were composed in a certain context of history and time, more than 500 years earlier than the Qur'anic writings, and up to 1,500 years after those of the Old Testament. Unlike Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, Arabic has remained a spoken language greatly influenced by the Qur'an to the present time. Hebrew experienced an interruption as a living language for about 1,500 years, during the time of the Diaspora, and Aramaic is no longer a living language at all. Research work in this century particularly, has greatly expanded our knowledge of Hebrew and has helped solve the language difficulty. This, as well as the inevitable ageing of every language (just try to read a book written 200 years ago) has made it necessary to revise existing translations of the Bible periodically to make the text true to the living language again.
To a Christian the need to read or recite Scripture or prayers in their original (language) makes no sense. Basically we are interested in the content of the message and not in the mechanics of the original. We deem it highly unlikely that the average Christian will manage to gain a knowledge of the original language(s) of the Bible equal to that of the highly qualified teams of linguists that do our translations. Besides that, we firmly believe that God understands us in our language when we worship, praise Him or speak to Him in prayer.
We also cannot subscribe to the Muslim view that the inspired character of a prophetic utterance is suspect when one cannot precisely determine the author. Ultimately the prophet or writer of an inspired message is just a tool in God's hand. If we seek to establish the authenticity of a letter, we do not make this dependent on our knowledge of the make and locality of the pen as long as we are sure that the message is genuine.
The charge that there are 100,000 errors in the Old Testament is too absurd even to need an answer, and the statement, that the Christian faith is essentially blind belief, throws poor light on the information at the disposal of the writer.
Within the framework of a book like this, it is obviously impossible to deal with all claims made against the Bible. There are, however some that are more prominent than others and we shall have to consider these first.
Alleged forgery, pollution, interpolation and contradictions in the Bible
I quote again some passages from "The Light" by al-Haj Sultan Hafiz Abdul, revised by Maulana Syed Zia-ud-Din Ahmad Gilani. We read in the foreword (page XI):
We fully agree with-the last sentence of this paragraph which, however, is in total contrast to the first part. There he tries to undermine the very foundation of the Bible by denouncing the four fundamental Biblical teachings, namely:
All other challenges against the Bible are subordinate to these, but will need clarification too. In the interests of uniformity, the attacks are taken from the previously mentioned book by A.S.K. Joommal. We have to be concise in our evaluation, however.
Changes to and interpolations in the Bible
As mentioned earlier, the "Authorised Version", also called the "King James Version", is a translation dating from 1611. In the meantime, particularly in this and the Nineteenth Centuries, a great number of other manuscripts, many more comprehensive and older than those available to the translators of the "Authorised Version" have been found and have put us in a far better position to locate copying mistakes and interpolations.
Interpolations are insertions in the text. Perhaps some scholar wrote a glossary, a remark or a parallel passage in the margin of the text. The next copyist copied this glossary and it then appeared in the new MS (manuscript) as a Scriptural text, which was then copied over and over again.
With the availability of many more ancient MSS, some containing the glossary and others not, scholars have the necessary leads to find out whether a text is an interpolation or whether it has been omitted by mistake. Hence the corrections in the newer translations. We must be aware that the Old Testament was copied by hand for 3,000 years and the New Testament for 1,400 years in isolated communities in different lands - even continents!
The revision of the Qur'an had already been completed shortly after the death of Mohammed, by Khalif Uthman who was aware of the problems that Christians and Jews had undergone. After all the variant readings had been destroyed, there remained only one original, which was copied straight away and multiplied, thereby virtually eliminating the risk of mistakes creeping in (see "Christians Ask Muslims"). Besides all this, the risk of mistakes entering any text increases greatly the further back one goes in history.
The verse in question here is found in manuscripts 'C' and 'D' of the Koine, but not in the others. An interpolation is not impossible; therefore this verse is given only as a footnote in the "Revised Standard Version". We may add a word of personal experience. The given text deals with the casting out of demons. The divine authority for this text can be put to the test and has been found to be "in full working order" by myself and many other Christians. We refer to John 7:17:
The "Revised Version" reads:
This is not a case of interpolation, nor is it a revision of the original. The Hebrew word used is "alma", and means an unmarried young woman. We can safely presuppose that an unmarried female can rightfully be called a virgin in the light of Deuteronomy 22:28.
Christians are not really interested in the opinion of a man who speculates on unverified presumptions.
This is another objection by Reverend Dummelow who thinks it possible that Christ did not ascend, but miraculously disappeared at the end of the "interview" with his disciples. The fact remains, that the same writer of Scripture in Acts 1:9 made an almost identical statement. We conclude therefore that no change in historical detail, or in doctrine has been brought about by the omission of the phrase. Besides. the Qur'an confirms this event (Sura 4:158).
Internal and external evidence indicates that this passage may not be the writing of John. This passage could be an interpolation, possibly by Papias, Elder of the Church of Hierapolis and companion of Polycarp of Smyrna (born 69 A.D.), who again was a disciple of John the Evangelist. Although none of his writings have been preserved, quotations from him appear in the works of Eusebius. Thus we can safely assume that, despite the possibility of this passage being an interpolation, it is an authentic Apostolic tradition and was canonized for that reason. We hold that the fact that Christians seek to be scrupulously honest and true in the presentation of the original manuscripts, should not be used as an argument to undermine the integrity of Scripture. One can only wish that Muslim scholars would apply the same scrutiny to their own scriptures.
Again we have a case of some manuscripts having recorded this passage and others not. The Godices Ephraemi Rescriptus and Bezae Cantabrigiensis, which are generally considered copies of the originals, both include the end of the Gospel according to Mark.
Remarkable is the evidence of the most ancient fragments. The Curetonian manuscript lost all the Gospel according to Mark, except the last four verses-those in dispute. The disputed text is also found in the Syriac and Peshito (Second Century) texts; and the Memphitic, Sahidic and Thebaic texts of upper and lower Egypt contain it as well. Unfortunately, during the early period of Christianity, in which the first manuscripts were written, the writing material was papyrus, which was easily destroyed by moisture and insects; hence we have only fragments available, but these still testify to the reliability and accuracy of the later manuscripts, for if these pieces totally correspond with those of a hundred years later, one may safely assume that the full text is indeed acceptable. Also Jerome copied the end of this Gospel narrative in his Vulgate version (translated between A.D.382-390):
The manuscripts, that omit the disputed verses, belong to a particular period and were probably edited by one critic.
Justin Martyr made repeated mention of the said passage in A.D. 150 and so did his younger contemporary, Irenaeus. Irenaeus was a pupil of Polycarp's and was, so to speak, a spiritual grandson of John the Evangelist.
In order to verify the genuineness of this passage one should perhaps not rely only on the ancient manuscripts, and the testimony of the early Apostolic Fathers alone. There is other evidence, and parallel passages in other Gospel accounts. We find the heart piece of this message repeated in the Gospel account of Matthew 28:19-20, which is contained in all manuscripts, and so we dare not doubt its authenticity. But what about the signs mentioned that should follow those who believe? Were these signs apparent and recognised and known, or not? We can only conclude: Yes, indeed. (1) Demons have been cast out by Christian disciples throughout the ages. It is still done today. (2) "They will speak in new tongues". This happened on the day of Pentecost and we have adequately documented accounts of similar happenings elsewhere and at other times. (3) We have accounts, though isolated, of attempts to murder Christian missionaries by poison, but which did not have any effect. Indeed, we read of the Apostle Paul, after his shipwreck, Acts 28:3-6, being bitten by a poisonous viper, which had no effect on him.
The writer of this book was himself bitten by a snake at a Christian youth camp, without effect. While dressing at another, he discovered inside his T-shirt a large black scorpion, which was caught by the shirt on his bare shoulder but nothing happened. Coincidence? Perhaps. But surely God had His purpose too. (4) It is also common knowledge that Christians here and there are endowed with the gift of healing practised even today with absolutely astounding results. All this evidence supports the fact, that this is authentic Scripture and consequently can be lived by and trusted.
The often repeated allegation that:
is not acceptable. No ancient language had, for instance, punctuation marks, divisions into chapters or verses, sentences or even separate words. The translator who determines where a full stop, comma, quotation mark or question mark is placed, is already forced to interpret Scripture and without this no old manuscripts can be understood by contemporary man, except by those who have specialized in the study of the ancient language concerned. There can be no ancient writing, including the Arabic of the Qur'an, of which it can be said that no extraneous matter has crept in. We need only consider the diacritical marks and vowelling in the Arabic language, which were introduced after the compilation of the Qur'an.
Every Christian believer can testify to the changing power of God in man after conversion and faith in the message of the Bible. Yet this book, in the opinion of Muslims, consists only of some traces of divine message engulfed in a mass of human thought.
Muslim critics of Christianity stress that:
What is implied thereby is that Christians simply do not reason or think.
The uninitiated reader is encouraged to compare a good and popular commentary on the Bible with a commentary on the Qur'an before, reaching his own conclusion on this matter.
Contradictions in the Bible
Many challenges by Muslims deal with differences in numbers or names pertaining to identical events. They are copyists' mistakes, but are of no significance whatever as regards the message of the text.
In 2 Chronicles 36:9, Jehoiachim was eight years when he began to reign; and in 2 Kings 24:8 he was eighteen.
In 2 Chronicles 22:2 Ahazia was 42 years old when he began to reign; and in 2 Kings 8:26 twenty-two years.
Similar cases may be found in:
2 Chronicles 4:5 when compared with 1 Kings 7:26;
2 Chronicles 14:3,17:6 when compared with 1 Kings 15:14, 22:43;
2 Chronicles 9:25 when compared with 1 Kings 4:26;
1 Timothy 6:16 when compared to 1 Kings 8:12, Psalm 18:11;
John 1:18 when compared with Exodus 33:11;
2 Samuel 24:24 when compared with 1 Chronicles 21:25;
2 Samuel 8:4 when compared with 1 Chronicles 18:4;
2 Samuel 10:18 when compared with 1 Chronicles 19:18;
2 Samuel 24:1,9,13,24 when compared with 1 Chronicles 21:1,5,11,12,22,10; and
Genesis 38:7 when compared with Matthew 1:3.
In no way would any reputable historian conclude that merely because of this type of discrepancy, manuscripts have been rendered unreliable or even polluted. Besides this, none of these errors is of any consequence or affects vital matters.
Here now are some more detailed allegations:
Muslims looking for a contradiction here have overlooked the fact, that in Chapter 8:20 these extra animals were used as follows:
That statement should explain the "grievous contradiction".
The alleged contradiction to this statement is found in Proverbs 1:28:
The reason (conveniently left our by the critic) is:
The omitted reason is:
"your hands are full of blood."
and Psalm 18:41:
The omitted reason for this "contradiction" follows:
"Thou didst deliver me from strife with the peoples;"
Here is the case of David's enemies who did wrong in trying to kill him for no reason but jealousy. They were not heard by God, but righteous David was. The reader will immediately detect that those who shall not find God are those, who reject God's ways and commandments. The immediate remedy given (in Isa: 1:16) is to:
We are tempted to quote the proverb about glass houses, but shall rather look at the subject matter. The above-mentioned passages (Jeremiah 13:14, Deuteronomy 7:16, 1 Samuel 15:3, etc.) all have something in common: the destruction of the Canaanites. The reason for this order by God was to preserve His people. The enemies of God's people were out to exterminate Israel, ultimately with the spiritual purpose of preventing the outworking of God's Word and the coming of the Messiah who had to come from among the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 20:10-18 we read:
I think it is necessary to be reminded of the foreknowledge of God, which is an aspect of His omniscience, and thus to remind all who ignorantly or maliciously use these arguments that it is rather a presumptuous undertaking to prescribe to God what He may do or command and what He may not. God needs no advisers. Our job is not to criticize God, but to establish the reliability of His Word, live by it and to establish what we can learn from its admonitions.
Furthermore, we need to take into account Genesis 15:13,16. God was indeed very patient with the Canaanites (Amorites). For more than a hundred years, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived among them and they saw true faith and character demonstrated. Altogether, God waited 400 years for them to turn to Him and repent from their sins. They also had the warning of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), but did not heed it.
The critic, however, then discovers that in other passages God has no pleasure in burnt offerings and claims that the two standpoints are mutually contradictory. The context again, will reveal the truth. A sacrifice offered by unrepentant and disobedient people is an abomination to the Lord:
"When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that no evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that no evil? Oh, that there were one among you who ... might not kindle fire upon my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you says the Lord of Hosts and I will not accept an offering from your hand ... you bring what has been taken by violence ... and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock and vows it and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished; for I am a great King, says the Lord of Hosts". (Malachi 1:8-10,13-14) (My emphasis).
"Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice ... For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness as iniquity and idolatry." (I Samuel 15:22-23).
"But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, 'Where are you?' And he said, I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.'" (Genesis 3:9-10);
"So Jacob called the name of the place Peni'el, saying, 'For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.'" (Genesis 32:30);
"I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple." (Isaiah 6:1);
and yet we read:
"heard his voice at any time" (John 5:37) and
"seen God's face and lived" (Exodus 33:20), etc.
We deem that these statements about Moses, Adam and Isaiah were of a metaphorical nature. God is Spirit and obviously He cannot be seen physically, unless He manifests Himself as in Genesis 18:1-2, 32:24-28 and 14:18-20. In such a case man does not see God as such either, but rather a manifestation of Him. Regarding "seeing" God, do we not sometimes hear people say, "We saw God's hand in this", or "We noticed God working in that"? We see a like principle outlined in the Qur'an:
To interpret the above texts literally suggests that the writer of Genesis and Exodus was stupid enough to introduce such obviously contradictory statements in what he wrote even within one chapter (Exod. 33). This man was Moses. Apart from this, the whole context of the Bible contradicts the idea that God as such can actually be seen.
He has "overlooked", however, that in the earlier part of the verse it says:
"He" is not the Lord, but Judah. Therefore Judah could not drive out the inhabitants because of the chariots. The fact that God is with a person does not necessarily mean that all things run smoothly in life (e.g. Joseph was sold, enslaved and imprisoned and God used this event to save his brothers. The death of Christ certainly looked like a defeat, yet was the greatest victory). Indeed, we read in Romans 8 that:
and in Romans 8:28:
And that incorporated what Paul, proclaiming the message of God to the heathen of his time, had to state:
The explanation of this (verse 7) is:
We may add here that God has limited Himself in His power by binding Himself to His law and His promises. God cannot lie or breach a promise and consequently renders part of His power to man, who by obedience to His Word can expect God to stand by His promises.
God is instrumental in letting man believe the lie that man desires to follow.
The following set of passages is alleged to contradict the set below:
"For God is not a God of confusion but of peace." (I Corinthians 14:33),
"The Rock, his work is perfect for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he." (Deuteronomy 32:4), and
"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; For God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one;" (James 1:13).
"Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come? (Lamentations 3:38).
"Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you." (Jeremiah 18:11), and
"Does evil befall a city, unless the Lord has done it?" (Amos 3:6).
We have to refer to the context of these verses, which has been somewhat neglected by Mr Joommal.
The full text, however, reads:
Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: We have transgressed and rebelled, and thou hast not forgiven. Thou hast wrapped thyself with anger and pursued us, slaying without pity; thou hast wrapped thyself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through. Thou hast made us offscouring and refuse among the peoples." (Lamentations 3:37-45).
So the evil that comes from the Lord, is the punishment for sin, which is the just reward for a mans actions. The same applies to the other texts:
"Then the word of the Lord came to me: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 'Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.' But they say, 'That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil hearth.'" (Jeremiah 18:5-12), and
"Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 'You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Do two walk together, unless they have made an appointment? Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing? Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing? Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does evil befall a city unless the Lord has done it? Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:1-7).
"Take heed that you do not your alms before man to be seen by them." (Matthew 6:1).
The critic expediently sees a contradiction in these two statements in Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount'. As usual, he has "overlooked" the context, for this sentence follows the first statement immediately:
Christ deals with two different aspects here:
i) that our actions may glorify God;
ii) that we should not perform them so that we get the praise.
This is therefore no contradiction.
but in practice was afraid Himself, for we read:
His time had not yet come. He had forecast His death a number of times:
"I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." (John 10:15,17,18).
"When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem ..." (Luke 9:51) (He knew what was waiting for Him there!).
When Christ announced that He would go to Jerusalem (John 11:15-16), one of His disciples exclaimed: "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Again a contradiction is seen where there is none. The disputed text does not state that He was afraid to go to Jerusalem, but that at that particular stage, His time had not come. Critics also forget to mention Gethsemane where Scripture records that Christ said:
But then He continues:
Obviously Christ was in agony at the thought of His crucifixion; which is natural, because He felt pain like anyone else.
and in Galatians 5:2 this is apparently contradicted by Paul's saying that:
Again a remarkable ignorance of Biblical theology is apparent. The Covenant that included circumcision as a covenant-sign, was with Abraham and his offspring. At no time was this covenant extended to the Gentiles. But already in the Old Testament we read repeatedly that the circumcision of the flesh made by hands is not sufficient in God's sight.
Again and again God challenges people to have their hearts circumcised meaning that the covenant is not an outward thing, but something that should affect the soul and heart of man. The New Covenant or New Testament threw the doors open to all who were interested in receiving God's gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Consequently, the New Testament superseded the Old Testament, since the Old Testament was only "a shadow of things to come."
Under the New Covenant people were baptized, a ritual with a different significance, but in itself, of course, as meaningless as circumcision in the flesh. Only when this act is filled with meaning, is the New Covenant effected in a man or woman. Jews at the time of Paul, demanded that Gentile believers also be circumcised; in fact they demanded strict adherence to the Law of Moses in addition to faith in Christ. Now the context of the disputed verse must be appreciated, for it continues:
We are made aware in this text that there are two ways of coming to God: the old way, by keeping God's laws, all of them all the time (James 2:10) to be saved - which is impossible; OR to rely on the grace of God, accepting the New Covenant, and not relying on one's own works. However, through pride, man often rejects the mercy and grace of God. It can clearly be seen that the "stumbling block" is the cross. God declares us unfit to save ourselves by good deeds, and that is a deathblow to all self-sufficiency. (Please consider pp. 78-79).
Islam, has chosen the way of works and for that reason cannot offer grace, but can only await the righteous judgement of God, Who will judge the living and the dead on the Last Day. A pardon refused, is a pardon forfeited.
and Deuteronomy 25:5:
contradict each other. In the first passage a man is allowed to marry his brother's widow, and in the other it is forbidden. We find it incomprehensible that the critic has overlooked the fact, that the commandment (Leviticus 20:21) not to take a brother's wife in no way contradicts Deuteronomy 25:5, where the widow of a brother is spoken of.
The word "fell headlong" is a little obscure in the Greek and probably means "swell up". We suggest that the latter verse refers to what happened later, i.e. that the body, probably half putrefied, fell from the rope.
"A man in not justified by works of the law, but by the faith of Christ Jesus." (Galatians 2:16).
Yet both seem to be contradicted by James 2:21,24 and Romans 2:13 on the other hand:
"The doers of the law shall be justified."
In the case of the latter verse, we must refer again to the context. This refers to the people living under the Old Covenant:
Studying the Bible superficially will inevitably lead to such misconceptions. If we do not consider a text within its context and dispensation, we are bound to get highly distorted facts. In the case of the other Scriptures mentioned, we need also point to the context. The critics should have continued by quoting about Abraham's justification by works:
This answers the "problem".
The complete text brings home the obvious message that theoretical faith (i.e. belief in the existence of God and certain of His attributes), is "dead"."Living" faith is thus action in response to God's Word ("Lord, we have fished all night and caught nothing. But at your word, I will let down the nets." Luke 5:5) (My emphasis).
This passage is not found in Jeremiah, but in Zechariah 11:12-13.
This could be a very serious problem were we to insist that the Bible is "nazil". As mentioned earlier, Christians do not see the Biblical writers as typewriters of God, but rather hold that God gives the message; which, however, is often clothed in the words of the writer, reflecting his character, style and temperament, and occasionally, his knowledge and wisdom. God addresses Himself to man on his level of understanding, allowing for the concepts of the time and environment in which he lives. (We refer to pages 10-11).
In the disputed passage, Matthew 27, we have a historical narrative, which Matthew records. This narrative, i.e. its message, is inspired. (I Peter 1:21). Matthew's reference to Jeremiah being the author of a text from Zechariah is wrong. This, however, does not alter the message. The problem may be detected in earlier manuscripts. Some read:
omitting the name Jeremiah. In that case the word "Jeremiah" would be an interpolation. However, there is quite a strong possibility that Zechariah is actually quoting an unrecorded utterance of Jeremiah's. (Torrey: "Difficulties in the Bible").
A considerable time had elapsed between the birth and the coming of the "wise men" from the East. The fact that Herod ordered all children two years and younger to be slain, after he had diligently inquired of the Wise Men when they saw the star first, is very suggestive, for who would mistake a baby a week old for a child of two years playing in the garden? We must also consider that the journey from the East, probably from Babylonia to Palestine, had taken a considerable time. At that stage, Mary and Joseph had long since moved from the stable into a house.
When someone is thirty he is obviously not yet fifty years old!
Objections to the Bible
This is a relevant question but we would return it by asking the Muslim critic why he should keep his beard
It is in fact
We would also ask why
and not with, say a fork or tooth-pick? (Mishkat I, page 605).
Nowhere in the given verse (Judges 7:20) does it say that all this was done simultaneously.
We believe it as surely as Hitler killed 6 million Jews.
The context of this chapter is a prophecy concerning the nation of Israel. In the text (verses 1-14 of Deuteronomy 28) it shows what would have happened if the Israelites had obeyed God and from verse 15 on wards we read of the curses that would befall Israel if they were to be disobedient, and within the long list of happenings foretold, this verse also appears. The irony of fate was that Mohammed himself actively helped to make this prophecy come true. One of Mohammed's concubines was Rihanah, a Jewish woman, whom he chose as booty after the defeat of the Jewish tribe of the Quraiza and the slaughter of their men. (Ibn Ishaq: Siratu'l Rasul vs. 693 p.466).
This is explained in the sentence:
demonstrating God's detachment from time. The critic, Mr Joommal, calls this a "quibble ... too ridiculous to be discussed". He must have been ignorant of the fact that the following texts:
are found in the Qur'an. (Suras 22:47 and 70:4).
May these arguments be representative of many others that have been omitted, for they are repetitive and largely irrelevant.
We can see that in almost all cases the "contradictions" are the creations of an overcritical mind; of someone who rejects the Biblical message, because it conflicts with his own and who is either too ignorant or too presumptuous or too faint-hearted to look at the evidence before reaching a conclusion and deciding matters in the light of the facts.
By now the Muslim reader will have acknowledged the invalidity of many an accusation, but will still seriously wonder how any mistake can come into God's Word.
We do not find it illegitimate to ask our critics for a list of the 100,000 errors in the Old Testament (Mr Joommal's quotation) or at least of the 50,000 errors in the Bible (according to Mr Deedat's booklet "Is the Bible God's Word?"). Without substantiation we cannot accept such ridiculous claims, even if they come from one or other unknown and unacceptable "Christian".
The most grievous "errors" of the critics' publications have been looked at and evaluated. We found out, however, that just about all of these 'errors' and 'pollutions' turned out to be malicious accusations without base. As we saw earlier (pp. 14ff.) eight of a possible 7959 verses offer the possibility of having been interpolated, besides John 7:53-8:11 - none of any consequence, however. The contradictions and objections pointed out are on feebler ground still. Besides 10 copyist's errors involving differing numbers or names of purely historical records (p. 22) we can only pick out two of the listed ones (and again these are just about all those of any consequence) that have an explanation that could be queried (points 12 and 15 of pp. 32-33).
Visualizing the above in the context of a large book like the Bible, written between 3500-2000 years ago and copied ever so many times by hand until the printing press was invented some 400 years ago, makes the text more than trustworthy.
Muslims have been reared to accept that there is no contradiction in the Qur'an and not a trace of a human hand in it. We should like to challenge any one to read on in "Christians ask Muslims" where we shall look critically into the Qur'an and the Hadis. This is not meant to be a justification of possible errors, copying mistakes or the like within the Bible. They do creep in when copying is done over extended periods of time. We have to point at problems of a much deeper nature with which the above problems cannot even be compared. We speak about the establishment of facts and evidence regarding divine inspiration. Again we would like sincerely to assure the reader that we are not out to retaliate or win an argument. But we would like you to become aware of facts that must have escaped your attention and of which you are unaware, but which you ought to consider, for they are of vital importance in your quest to establish where you find divine revelation.
Do Christians believe in inherited sin?
To answer this question we must first define words. What exactly is meant by the term "inherited sin"? In order to be Christian we ought to be Biblical. What does the Bible say about inherited sin? Exactly nothing!
There is, however, another term that one might use: Original sin. That is the sin Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden. Their sin was not, as has been speculated in earlier times, sex. Sexuality is a gift from God. It may be abused. Then it is sin. But in itself as used in the bond of marriage it cannot be sin.
There is one verse in the Psalms (51:5) which states: "... in sin did my mother conceive me." If we look at the text carefully, however, we perceive that the conception was not the sin, but in a state of sin conception took place. And there is a world of difference between these two views.
There are only two more passages in the Bible touching on this subject (Rom. 5:12-18 and I Cor. 15:21-22). It states here quite clearly that sin came into the world through one man, and the trespass of that one man led to the condemnation of all mankind. But it also states that death (the result of sin) spread to all men BECAUSE ALL MEN SINNED.
So no man will be condemned because Adam sinned! Man will be condemned because he sinned against God himself. So it is not right to speak of inherited sin, but rather of original sin.
Sin originated in Adam, and since then one generation after another - up to now - inherited the sinful nature, the compelling drive to sin. And because we sin we are sinners. So no man inherited any sin from his forefathers, but the desire to sin.
We must hasten to add, however, that God gave with the 'sickness' a remedy: "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's righteousness led to acquittal and life for all men". This man is Jesus. We note that there is no compulsion. One man's sin led to his children's sin etc., but each man individually consents to the actions he does. Likewise the acquittal is not by compulsion, but by choice.
Bible obscenities and atrocities
Many Muslims are of the opinion that
This is said with reference to "obscenities" that make the Bible a book that ought to be scrutinised by censors.
Without entering into the controversy, we should like to mention two points.
The fact, that these "obscenities" are still in the Bible can prove one of two things:
The Bible constitutes the written history of the Jews. Historians of any country endeavour to record history in such a way, that the country and its people are glorified. Historical records of identical events may vary vastly from country to country according to their bias. In the frank recording of the shameful sins of Israel we particularly see an obvious sign that nobody tried to "improve" the image of the Jews. This weighs heavily in favour of the integrity and truthfulness of the Biblical record.
We are told that the Hebrew word for a "woman" "simply refers to the sexual interest that a man has in her".
This statement is untrue. The Hebrew word "Isha" is the feminine form of Ish, which mean man. Without wishing to retaliate, we are tempted to refer to a Hadis in the "Mishkat" (II, page 426), where Mohammed intending to go to war, exempted
This is what today would be called legalised prostitution.
Christians could make similar claims concerning atrocities within Islam. There is no way of denying (although this is sometimes done) that at least the early conquest of Islam was full of atrocities. Be that as it may, we see in the recording of atrocities a sign of the trustworthiness of the Bible. The Bible does not condone the act of sin, nor does it offer any praise for dirty actions, but proclaims rather the impending judgement of God. (See II Samuel 11:26,27 - 12:1-19):
And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, 'There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveller to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him.' Then David's anger was kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, 'As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he has no pity.'
Nathan said to David, 'You are the man. Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'I annointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' Thus says the Lord, 'Behold I will raise up evil against you out of your own house, and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.' David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' And Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.' Then Nathan went to his house.
And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in and lay all night upon the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead; for they said, 'Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us; how then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.' But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; and David said to his servants, 'Is the child dead?' They said, 'He is dead.'" (II Samuel 11:26 - 12:19). A somewhat similar situation is reported in Joshua 7:18-26, etc.
Unfulfilled Bible prophecies
The commentator of the Mishkat (IV, page 396) states:
A true prophecy must be beyond human foresight and in enough detail not to be generally applied to this or that event. According to Bible standards prophecies are likewise the credentials of a prophet:
"... bring your proofs ... Let them bring them and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are ... or declare us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods." (Isaiah 41:21-23).
As a general rule we have to mention that a number of prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. Some prophecies, such as the re-establishment of Israel and the return of the Jews to their former land, are being fulfilled in our generation. The bulk of the prophecies have been fulfilled already.
Muslim critics have picked out some unfulfilled prophecies to disprove the divine character of the Bible.
The Biblical statement:
is given as an example.
"This generation passed away long ago", is the claim made by such critics. Which generation is the question? The context will give us more information.
It is the generation that lives when "the branches of the fig tree put forth leaves." The fig tree in Scripture is the symbol of Israel. Israel is putting forth its leaves now after being "dead" for almost 2,000 years.
Another false prediction, so it is claimed, is the statement:
The Son of Man came in His Kingdom (consider the Kingdom parables!) at Pentecost, which is the birth of the Kingdom. Most of the people that listened to Christ at that time, were still alive at the time of Pentecost.
It is also said, that the prophecy concerning the destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar in Ezekiel 26:7-14 was not fulfilled.
We note the change of person thereafter from "he" to "they":
This happened when a mole was built as a pathway in the sea to the island which is about 700m away from the mainland.
This latter phrase is the part that may be disputed:
but we would pose the question: What? The walls and houses or the city as such, the most lustrous trading centre of the then known world? In case of the latter the prophecy was right. Nebuchadnezzar did destroy Tyre, though not all of it.
Tyre consisted of two parts; the smaller on the island and the bigger one on the mainland. Nebuchadnezzar conquered mainland or Old Tyre and besieged the Island Tyre (Tyre = Rock) for 13 years. History has left us no record of the outcome of the siege except that the rulers following the kings of Tyre appear to have been vassals of Babylon. (Josephus in Apion i, 21, reports from a Phoenician annal, and since Tyre was part of Phoenicia probably concealed the outcome, which was humiliating).
Nevertheless, the prophecy took its course and was completed when the ruins of Old Tyre were used by Alexander the Great some years later as a mole that was laid right up to the Island City, which was subsequently destroyed. This had been foretold in the prophecy of Ezekiel. We are aware that Tyre was rebuilt several times, but destroyed as many times and never regained its former power and influence. For the last 800 years Tyre has been an uninhabited rock in the sea: fulfilling the last part of Ezekiel's prediction.
But all this is comparatively obsolete and remote prophecy. Stopping here would give the appearance that such is all the Bible offers as far as prophecy is concerned. This is most definitely not so. Let us have a look at:
Biblical Prophecies Fulfilled
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