Gods Word is indeed Eternal!
Sam Shamoun & Jochen Katz
Bassam again thinks he has found a Bible discrepancy. He writes regarding the Word of God being eternal:
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever."
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
According to Isaiah 40:8 the word of God is eternal, however in Matthew 5 we see that the Law (which is the word of God) will disappear when the heavens and the earth disappear. So that is a time limit and therefore the Law is not eternal. Therefore, either Isaiah 40:8 is a false statement or Matthew 5:18 is a false statement or the Law is not the word of God. Which one is it?
Zawadis construction of an alleged contradiction reveals several misunderstandings. First, there is an over-interpretation of the statement in Matthew 5:18. Jesus states clearly that not even the smallest part of the Law will disappear until the end of time, until the time when this earth and this heaven themselves will disappear. Is that confirmation of the Laws integrity and preservation not sufficient for Zawadi? What more does he need?
However, the problem is what Zawadi speculates will happen after the disappearance of heaven and earth. He claims that the Law will then disappear as well. But the text makes no such claim. It simply does not say anything about what will happen with the Law at that time. The Law may stay, or it may disappear. This verse does not say anything about the time after the end. After all, the Greek word translated as until (heos) simply means that some action did not happen up to a certain point; it does not imply that the action did happen later, a fact that can be seen from the following examples:
"And they buried him in Gai near Beth Peor; and no one has seen his tomb to (heos) this day." Deuteronomy 34:6 Septuagint (LXX)
Here the text says that no one knew the location of Moses grave up until the final composition of the book, without this suggesting that people after that time knew its location.
"And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child till (heos) the day of her death." 2 Samuel 6:23 LXX
A person would never infer from this text that Michal had children after her death.
Because of this observation alone, there is no contradiction. There is nothing left of Zawadis case. Nevertheless, let us explore the question further. In what sense is Gods Word called eternal?
If Zawadi bothered reading the context of Isaiah carefully he would have seen that by Word Isaiah meant Gods purpose in bringing to pass all that he says:
"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, FOR THE MOUTH OF THE LORD HAS SPOKEN. A voice says, Cry! And I said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." Isaiah 40:1-10
The context demonstrates that Gods Word refers to his promises, specifically in relation to Israels restoration and salvation. Basically, God was saying that his promise to his covenant people is fixed and irrevocable, settled forever and would not be thwarted. Isaiah basically says the very same thing elsewhere in his book:
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall MY WORD be that goes forth FROM MY MOUTH; it shall not return to me empty, BUT IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH THAT WHICH I PURPOSE, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11
Note that Isaiah mentions similar themes in chapter 40 regarding God uttering a Word from his mouth which will definitely come to pass.
"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: I am the LORD, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth -- Who was with me? -- who frustrates the omens of liars, and makes fools of diviners; who turns wise men back, and makes their knowledge foolish; who confirms the word of his servant, and performs the counsel of his messengers; who says of Jerusalem, `She shall be inhabited,' and of the cities of Judah, They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins; who says to the deep, Be dry, I will dry up your rivers; who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfil all my purpose; saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built, and of the temple, Your foundation shall be laid." Isaiah 44:24-28
God foils the deceptive promises and words of diviners while guaranteeing that the words of his servants are perfectly fulfilled.
Other biblical writers echo this same point:
"The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nought; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. THE COUNSEL of the LORD STANDS FOR EVER, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." Psalm 33:10-11
"For ever, O LORD, YOUR WORD is firmly fixed IN THE HEAVENS. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day; for all things are your servants." Psalm 119:89-91
The Word in the last passage refers to Gods purpose for creation being fixed for all eternity, as well as to his being faithful to do all that he promises.
"Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins. As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." Romans 11:25-29
God, Paul says, will eventually turn Israel back to himself in order to fulfill his Word since his promises are unchangeable, forever fixed!
"So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of THE PROMISE the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us." Hebrews 6:17-18
Since it is impossible for God to lie, his promises are therefore unchangeable and he must do all that he says.
This is the exact same point Jesus was making regarding the Law. Gods purpose was that the Law and the prophets would be fulfilled by the Messiah, a decree which stands forever and could never be thwarted.
Hence, it isnt so much that the Law is eternal, but that Gods purpose in giving the Law is what is fixed forever and cannot be revoked. As it stands, there are no contradictions between these biblical statements.
It is time to, once again, turn the tables on Zawadi. The Quran says that no one can change any of the words of Allah:
Perfect are the words of thy Lord in truthfulness and justice; no man can change His words; He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing. S. 6:115 Arberry
for them is good tidings in the present life and in the world to come. There is no changing the words of God; that is the mighty triumph. S. 10:64 Arberry
Recite what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord; no man can change His words. Apart from Him, thou wilt find no refuge. S. 18:27 Arberry
This last verse clearly connects the recitation of the book with the words that cannot be changed, thereby implying that it is the words of the Quran which is unchangeable. Lest Zawadi tries to conveniently ignore this fact or attempt to misinterpret the text to mean something other than the Quran, here is the view of two Muslim scholars:
Commanding His Messenger to recite His Holy Book and convey it to mankind, Allah says,
<None can change His Words,> meaning, no one can alter them, distort them or misinterpret them. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; online source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
According to Razi, it is on this passage, among others, that the great Quran-commentator Abu Muslim al-Isfahani based his rejection of the so-called doctrine of abrogation discussed in my note 87 on 2:106. (Asad, Message of the Quran [Dar Al-Andalus Limited 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar rpt. 1993], p. 443, fn. 35; source; bold emphasis ours)
Yet it says elsewhere that Allah does change his word:
And for whatever verse We abrogate or cast into oblivion, We bring a better or the like of it; knowest thou not that God is powerful over everything? S. 2:106
And when We exchange a verse in the place of another verse and God knows very well what He is sending down -- they say, Thou art a mere forger! Nay, but the most of them have no knowledge. S. 16:101
According to some passages the word of Allah is eternal, however other passages say that the so-called unchangeable revelations are replaced with something similar if not better. So this obviously means that certain verses were intended to be altered. Therefore, either Surahs 6:115, 10:64 and 18:27 are false or Suras 2:106 and 16:101 are false, which means that either way there are parts of the Quran which cannot be the words of Allah. Worse still, this proves that Allah cannot be god or is a very ignorant deity. Allah couldnt keep his promises that his words wont change and needed to correct himself by replacing specific texts.
To see the difficulties these texts raised for Muslims we present Asads comments on Sura 2:106:
The principle laid down in this passage - relating to the supersession of the Biblical dispensation by that of the Quran - has given rise to an erroneous interpretation by many Muslim theologians. The word ayah ('message') occurring in this context is also used to denote a verse of the Quran (because every one of these verses contains a message). Taking this restricted meaning of the term ayah, some scholars conclude from the above passage that certain verses of the Quran have been abrogated by Gods command before the revelation of the Quran was completed. Apart from the fancifulness of this assertion - WHICH CALLS TO MIND THE IMAGE OF A HUMAN AUTHOR CORRECTING, ON SECOND THOUGHT, THE PROOFS OF HIS MANUSCRIPT, deleting one passage and replacing it with another - there does not exist a single reliable Tradition to the effect that the Prophet ever declared a verse of the Quran to have been abrogated. At the root of the so-called doctrine of abrogation MAY LIE THE INABILITY OF SOME EARLY COMMENTATORS TO RECONCILE ONE QUR'ANIC PASSAGE WITH ANOTHER; a difficulty which was overcome by declaring that one of the verses in question had been abrogated. This arbitrary procedure explains also why there is no unanimity whatsoever among the upholders of the doctrine of abrogation as to which, and how many, Quran-verses have been affected by it; and furthermore, as to whether this alleged abrogation implies a total elimination of the verse from the context of the Quran, or only a cancellation of the specific ordinance or statement contained in it. In short, the doctrine of abrogation has no basis in historical fact, and must be rejected (Ibid., pp. 22-23, n. 87; online source; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Another Muslim who readily admitted that the doctrine of abrogation was devised in order to explain away Quran contradictions was the late Ahmadiyya scholar Maulana Muhammad Ali:
The principle on which the theory of abrogation is based is unacceptable, being contrary to the clear teachings of the Qur'an. A verse is considered to be abrogated when the two cannot be reconciled with each other; in other words, when they appear to contradict each other. But the Qur'an destroys the foundation when it declares that no part of it is at variance with another: "Will they not then meditate on the Qur'an? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy" (4 : 82). It was due to lack of meditation that one verse was thought to be at variance with another; and hence it is that in almost all cases where abrogation has been upheld by one person, there has been another who, being able to reconcile the two, has repudiated the alleged abrogation. (Ali, The Religion of Islam [The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at Islam (Lahore) U.S.A., Eighth Edition 2005], p. 32; bold and underline emphasis ours)
For further discussion on the issue of abrogation, see these articles:
Rebuttals to Answering-Christianity
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page