The Qur’an Affirms the Reliability of the Bible: A Plausible (Muslim) View?

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Photo credit: Ryk Neethling – https://www.flickr.com/photos/rykneethling/4543063042

My own position is (tentatively) that the Qur’an does affirm the reliability of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The Qur’an believes that Jews and Christians have misinterpreted such texts, or even covered things up or maybe written other book(s), but that they have not actually corrupted the texts themselves. The possible exception is that the description of Muhammad has been textually altered – but that’s it. This last one I actually say not on the basis of the Qur’an, but only due to it’s presence in the extra-Qur’anic Islamic literature – if I took the Qur’an only, which I do indeed consider to be more reliable than other Islamic literature, I would not include this caveat.

Some (indeed the majority) of Muslims I have spoken to think that this position is obviously wrong, and one Muslim even told me that no Muslim scholar ever held this. Indeed one source I read suggested that holding to this position was not just mistaken, but indicative of a deceitful heart.

I myself believe the first paragraph tentatively – I would affirm it on probability, but I recognise that many of the relevant texts could be understood to point in either direction. I just think that my interpretation is a slightly more natural reading of numerous texts, and a strongly better reading of at least one or two.

Anyway, the reason I discuss all this is to point out that at least one modern Muslim scholar (Abdullah Saeed) beleives that the Qur’an affirms the reliability of the former scriptures, and that a modern Muslim apologist (Shabir Ally) previously inclined towards this position. According to Dr Ally, ‘For a long time many academics had said what David [Wood] said today’, i.e. that the Qur’an affirms the reliability of the former scriptures. This information comes from the debate between David Wood and Shabir Ally earlier this year – commencing at 26:51 –  https://youtu.be/WKqe8fKhfXg?t=1611 . I transcribe the words of Dr Ally:

For a long time many academic scholars had said very much what David had said today, and in fact so many of them had said it that even Abdullah Saeed [whom David earlier quoted, c. 21:45] had been persuaded by it, and for a time I myself was being inclined towards that position as well, to think that it looks like the Qur’an is actually affirming the Torah and the Gospel as it existed at the time when the Qur’an was being revealed,  in all it’s totality.

I should note that Dr Ally goes on to say how he believes Sidney Griffith’s book ‘The Bible in Arabic’ is a ‘game-changer’ on this matter, arguing instead that the Qur’an does teach the corruption of the former scriptures. I hope to deal with this in a different article shortly. The point of this article is simply to show that the position I hold is credible enough that many scholars, and even some Muslims [see below for another one], have considered it credible or even held to it.

I advise those who want to read about the history of Muslim understandings of the former scriptures to read at least the first five chapters of ‘The Gentle Answer’, by Gordon Nickel (amongst other works). I don’t have time now to find and quote the ancient Muslim interpreters who hold to my position, but Nickel claims to have found them, and provides quotations in his text. He has a very quotable section on modern scholars (pp. 28-30, Kindle Locations 686-735), from which I get the below.

Scholars who believe the Qur’an itself does not claim the corruption of former scriptures

  • William Montgomery Watt (Edinburgh University) [from my brief Islamic studies at university, I got the impression that Watt was a mainstream, well-respected scholar]:
    “the Qur’ān does not put forward any general view of the corruption of the text of the Old and New Testaments.” (“The early development,” 53) ‘there is absolutely no suggestion in the Qur’ān that the whole Bible has been corrupted at some time in the distant past, nor that there had been the collusion between Christians and Jews which would have been necessary in order to corrupt the Old Testament’ (‘Muslim-Christian encounters: Perceptions and misperceptions’ (London: Routledge, 1991), 32.)
  • Mahmoud Ayoub (Muslim scholar):
    ‘Contrary to the general Islamic view, the Qur’an does not accuse Jews and Christians of altering the text of their scriptures, but rather of altering the truth which those scriptures contain. The people do this by concealing some of the sacred texts, by misapplying their precepts, or by “altering words from their right position.” However, this refers more to interpretation than to actual addition or deletion of words from the sacred books.’ (Mahmoud Ayoub, “‘ Uzayr in the Qur’an and Muslim tradition,” in Studies in Islamic and Judaic traditions, eds. W.M. Brinner and S.D. Ricks (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), 5.)
  • Ignazio Di Matteo:“According to the Qur’ān, the text of the holy scriptures has been altered neither before Muḥammad, nor even during his life-time by those Jews and Christians who were not favourably disposed towards his mission. In the Qur’ān taḥrīf means either false interpretation of the passages bearing upon Muḥammad or non-enforcement of the explicit laws of the Pentateuch, such as the stoning punishment.” (Ignazio Di Matteo, “Il ‘Taḥrīf’ od alterazione della Bibbia secondo i musulmani,” Bessarione 38 (1922), 96.)
  • Abdullah Saeed (already mentioned above, but here is a quote from him): ‘“In no verse in the Qur’ān is there a denigrating remark about the scriptures of the Jews and Christians. Instead, there is respect and reverence. Any disparaging remarks were about the People of the Book, individuals or groups, and their actions.” (“The charge of distortion of Jewish and Christian scriptures,” The Muslim World 92 (2002), 429.) See 21:45 in the video above for a better quote.
  • John Burton (St Andrews) (as with Watt, Burton came up in my studies at university, and I got the impression he was a well-respected scholar – though he does have an unusual theory concerning the Hadith. I had a funny moment at uni when I confused this gentleman with John Barton – the latter was puzzled when I started talking to him about his work on Islam):’Many non-Muslims are still firmly of the belief that Jews and Christians are accused in the Qur’ān of having tampered with the texts of the revelations to the prophets now collected into the Old and New Testaments of their Bible. This is because they regularly encounter such charges in their reading. The accusation is a commonplace charge against the People of the Book by the Muslims, not, however, because of what the Qur’ān says, but because of what the Muslims say the Qur’ān says. In other words, it is mere exegesis.’ (John Burton, “The corruption of the scriptures,” Occasional Papers of the School of Abbasid Studies 4 (1992, publ. 1994), 95.)
  • Martin Accad (I heard him, and Gordon Nickel, speak at a conference on this very topic run by the Oxford Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies. I found it a fascinating day. See here http://cmcsoxford.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Michaelmas-2014.-Final-Web.pdf ): ‘In the Qur’ânic context, taḥrîf is principally an ambiguous accusation raised against the Jews. Moreover, [all four verses containing the verb ḥarrafa] more readily lend themselves to being understood as accusations of misinterpretation, taḥrîf maʿna, rather than textual corruption, taḥrîf lafẓ. One should not therefore too quickly conclude, as most do today, that these verses were automatically understood in the sense of textual corruption of the whole Bible, for this would represent an anachronism.’ (“Corruption and/ or misinterpretation of the Bible: The story of the Islâmic usage of taḥrîf,” Theological Review 24/ 2 (2003), 71.) Nickel notes that Accad’s quote here comes from Accad’s study of ‘twenty-five treatises written by Muslim authors during the first six centuries of Islam’ (Martin Accad. “The Gospels in the Muslim discourse of the ninth to the fourteenth centuries: An exegetical inventorial table,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 14 (2003), 67-91, 205-220, 337-352, 459-79.)
  • Matthias Radscheit – concerning the word tahrif (corruption: ‘“That it did not mean falsification of the fixed written Torah or Gospel shows itself— negatively— in that taḥrīf is never connected explicitly with these books, and— positively— by the verses which exhort the ahl al-kitāb to hold to what is in their scriptures.”'(Die koranische Herausforderung: Die taḥaddī-Verse im Rahmen der Polemikpassagen des Korans (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1996), 82-83.)

The purpose of this article is not to convince people of my position. But I hope it might change people’s minds as to the credibility/plausibility of my position – I am not the first to hold to it.

EDIT (28/09/2016) –

One of the comments asks why the Muslims above are modern. The answer is that in a few pages, Nickel gives the nice summary above, which was easier to reproduce. In chapter 3 (and possibly 4 and 5) Nickel discusses older exegetes in greater detail. But there is also a good summary, like the one above, of Muslims who take a comparatively positive view of the former scriptures at p. 118, Kindle location 2585 to p. 122, Kindle location 2685.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Categories: Islam

66 replies

  1. “This last one I actually say not on the basis of the Qur’an, but only due to it’s presence in the extra-Qur’anic Islamic literature – if I took the Qur’an only, which I do indeed consider to be more reliable than other Islamic literature, I would not include this caveat.”

    The “extra Quranic literature” mentioned clearly and firmly states that the previous texts were corrupted (as in, with addition and deletion).

    “Ibn `Abbas said, “Why do you ask the people of the scripture about anything while your Book (Qur’an) which has been revealed to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) is newer and the latest? You read it pure, undistorted and unchanged, and Allah has told you that the people of the scripture (Jews and Christians) changed their scripture and distorted it, and wrote the scripture with their own hands and said, ‘It is from Allah,’ to sell it for a little gain. Does not the knowledge which has come to you prevent you from asking them about anything? No, by Allah, we have never seen any man from them asking you regarding what has been revealed to you!” [Bukhari 7363]

    “There were kings after ‘Isa bin Mariam who altered the Tawrah and the Injil, but there were among them believers who read the Tawrah. It was said to their kings: ‘We have never heard of any slander worse than that of those (believers) who slander us and recite: “And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers.” In these Verses, they are criticizing us for our deeds when they recite them.’ So he called them together and gave them the choice between being put to death, or giving up reading the Tawrah and Injil, except for what had been altered…..” [Nasai 5400, quoted partially as it is long]

    Those are just two of many narrations from various companions of Muhammad (pbuh).

    The mentions of the descriptions being changed is also widespread in the extra Quranic literature. But so are many mentions of the Torah being changed.

    I’ve seen Christians bring narrations from Ibn Abbas that say that the torah is preserved, but these don’t even have a complete isnad linking them to Ibn Abbas.

    But for the sake of argument, if the Quran did say that the Bible is preserved and unchanged (I of course object to this in light of 2:79 and other passages), that just damages the Quran’s credibility as we know the opposite is true. Jesus and the woman taken in adultery is an interpolation to the Gospel of John and Mark 16:9-20 is also marked in most modern Bible as an interpolation or absent from early manuscripts. These are just two examples I know off the top of my head (there are others of course).

    “I don’t have time now to find and quote the ancient Muslim interpreters who hold to my position, but Nickel claims to have found them, and provides quotations in his text. ”

    You don’t have time to quoted the classical scholars, but do have the time to quote the modern ones from the same book? Sorry mate, I’m not going to buy a book on amazon because apparently the quotes are totally there!

    It would be interesting which interpreters these are. Eg. Tabari in his commentary of the Qur’an is quite explicit about textual changes in the Torah (eg commenting on 2:42, among other places). As are other commentators like Imam Razi. The Later commentators as well are all quite clear. The only commentary written of the Quran comparable to Tabari’s in terms of it’s early age is Imam Maturidi’s tafsir which is essentially contemporary to Tabari and highly authoritative (Al-Ashari and Al-Maturidi are essentially the supreme Sunni theologians). I’m quite certain he also holds the same view as Tabari, that is textual change.

    We know the position of the later commentators like Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi, Suyuti, ect

    We have the earliest commentators like Tabari having the same position.

    We have hadith works pre-dating all these commentators recording statements of companions of Muhammad on this matter, also affirming this position.

    So I think the classical early-Islamic view is pretty clear that when the Qur’an says they distorted the torah (2:75), and wrote false writings (2:79) that it is not limited to just (mis)interpretation of words.

    And if you want to talk about hadith reliability, some modern academic works on the subject include “The Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence: Meccan Fiqh Before the Classical Schools” and “Analysing Muslim Traditions” both by Dr.Harald Motzki for some analysis of hadith authenticity were he demonstrates many statements attributed to Muhammad’s companions are indeed historically reliable and critiques the antiquated theories of Joseph Schacht. Both of these are academic works (by a non-Muslim), not apologetics. You can easily get a pdf online or through a library (the prices from Brill are insanely expensive).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi visitor,

      Thank you for the above – I can’t reply to it all I’m afraid, but you do make some interesting points. The reliability of the ahadith is an important factor here – thank you for your recommendation of Motzki!

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    • I asked many muslims who changed the bible, what they changed and when it was changed.
      If something is true, there is only one answer possible. If I ask 100 muslims, I get 100 different answers. So nobody can answer this questions.

      Christians know which parts of the NT are possible additions and we mention that in the bible. We don’t hide these things. But even if we remove all these possible additions, the meaning of the bible doesn’t change at all. The 4 Gospels mention the core of the christian faith: That Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross and that he rose from the death. These are not considered as possible additions, but these are denied in the quran.

      And when we judge the quran with similar standards as muslim judge the bible, regarding authenticity and validity, based on found manuscripts, historical writings (especially from other sources) and qouted from early scholars, the bible is much better off than the quran.

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    • “Christians know which parts of the NT are possible additions and we mention that in the bible. ”
      That’s not true. Christians have been resisting this fact ( i.e the corruption) for long time, yet they got hammered thoroughly by evidences that they no longer can’t open their lips.

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    • Marcel,
      Muslims don’t have to answer your question on who changed the bible, since the findings of modern biblical scholarship through NT Criticism has already thoroughly answered that question in spades. It does not matter if you are in denial if the facts. You can blame Islam all you want, but it does not change the fact that it was the Church, not Islam, that misled you.

      You are wrong about the Qur’an’s standing in comparison with the Bible. The authenticity and validity of the Qur’an has been proven to be more solid than the Bible based on found manuscripts, historical writings, and early scholars. We know the pedigree of the Qur’an, however we don’t know who wrote the Bible, you can start from there.

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    • @Abdullah & Ibn Issam: We can say exactly the same about muslims. What modern scholars say is not always the reality. There are many assumptions. You also do not agree with researchers like Tom Holland and many other scholars.
      Scholars like Bart Ehrmann are often refuted by christian scholars. And of course, both christians AND muslims prefer to believe those who proof that the other is wrong.

      I repeat what Ibn Issam wrote, but in my words:
      You can blame Christianity all you want, but it does not change the fact that it was the Islam, not the bible, that misled you.

      I don’t know why you say ‘the church’. I do not believe in the church, I believe in Jesus as revealed in the bible. I do not rely on what the church (which church??) teach me.

      I am sorry that I have to say this, but I caught you lying, Ibn Issam: we DO know the majority of authors of the bible. We know much more about the writers of the bible than muslims know about the writers of the quran.
      So tell me: what historical evidence do you have about the authenticity of the quran?

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  2. Richard, can you clarify why all of the scholars you cited seem to be fairly recent? You are aware I assume of Nickel’s appeal to a very specific exchange between the Byzantine Emperor and the Muslim Khilafa (although I think he only ever quotes the Christian Emperor’s words and not the Muslim’s), right?

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    • I just cited scholars I found Nickel citing! Hmmm possibly, if I did read that exchange I pretty much forgot about it…

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    • It’s altogether a very poorly written book. Look at his citations a bit more closely and you’ll find whenever a Muslim dialogues with a Christian on this issue, he’d quote the Christian at length as if they presented the accurate Islamic position, and partially or not entirely (as in a number of cases) refuse to the quote the Muslim interlocutor at all.

      In quite a dishonest twist, with respect to Leo the 3rd’s dialogue with Caliph Umar ibn Abd al Aziz, he never quotes the Muslim. Not once. I raised this question and his response to this (through) a party that directly communicated with him was that he didn’t find the Muslim’s portion of the dialogue to be authentic, only the Christian’s portion was (despite both manuscript and historical evidence from a Christian ANE historian validating the exact same text we have from the Muslim side today!). Sadly, that is the level of scholarship he espouses and to see that you missed this brings into question just how closely you read the work or if you critically approached it at all.

      Disappointing to say the least Richard, I know you’re much better than this. Was this a rushed piece? It does not stand up under minor criticism quite well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ijaz,

      Sorry it took me so long to reply!

      Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate your review of the book, and I’ll bear that in mind if and when I read it again in the future.

      Thank you for your kind words that I can do better. It was rushed, as are many of my articles – but I try to be quite open (since this I have written ‘My purpose in Blogging’, which clarifies things) about what I am and am not claiming. This article is not a defense of Gordon Nickel’s interpretation – it instead highlights which scholars have taken a position the same as that which I hold.

      I am still a novice on this topic, and I have a lot to learn.

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    • I must confess, I didn’t remember any of the Muslim dialogues with Christians in the book, so that wasn’t what I was basing my appreciation of the book upon. I think the main argument of the book is hardly affected, even if we remove the Muslim dialogues with Christians. Your thoughts? Your thoughts on the overall argument of the book?

      With the Heraclitus episode, he does indeed only seem to quote the Christians, apart from the messenger of Islam commanding to ‘submit’. I cannot easily access Tabari’s work to see what the whole account says – can you? Is something important omitted of what the Muslims say in this account?

      As for the Leo III account – while he does only quote the Christian response (for that is what the account is about), it implicitly reveals what Muslims are arguing. So the defence against textual corruption suggests at that time, Muslims may well have been alleging such. I would have liked to have seen Nickel draw out this point – whether this is dishonest, or simply an oversight, I do not know.

      I just read an article by Robert Hoyland on this dialogue, http://www.academia.edu/9659746/Correspondence_between_Leo_III_and_Umar_II , arguing for a late 8th century date. Muqatil ibn Sulayman (d. 767 I believe) may therefore be earlier, and ibn Ishaq, and thus we possibly witness a bit of an evolution, moving up to firmer accusations of textual alteration in this Correspondence. Both views then coexist. This is a position I’m currently open to, incorporating the evidence from this Correspondence.

      But yes, I think Nickel needs to deal with this more. I wonder if his more academic book deals with it in greater depth… I’ll have to check when I get it back from Paul Williams.

      In terms of me missing this – as I said, this isn’t what this blog post was about. But I confess I didn’t have time to check every reference. I focused on the earlier chapters, and I didn’t realise there was all this relevant material in ch. 7. My bad!

      I do not expect my views to necessarily stand up to minor criticism. I am still a novice, with a lot to learn – as I hope I have done above, and as I have done regarding Sidney Griffith’s book (my discussion with Taha), I will modify my view in the light of new evidence. As I make clear in my ‘Purpose of Blogging’, I do not consider myself an expert – instead I think that every now and again I might have a good insight, or I might ask a good question, even if I don’t have all the answers.

      Those who wish to read an expert should stop reading my blogs!

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    • In terms of Nickel not providing the Muslim side of the dialogue in the Umar-Leo discussion – while I regret he didn’t bring this up in general, because I think it is relevant, I can see why he didn’t do it here – he is just following a format. Immediately before he had a similar bulletpoint format where he gave Muslim arguments, and then the bit you are referring to, he gives bulletpoints of Christian arguments.

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    • Also, have you read and do you have any thoughts on Nickel’s academic book, ‘Narratives of Tampering’?

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    • Also, you said Nickel didn’t think the Muslim side of the discussion was authentic, contra a Christian historian.

      Do you know if others would agree with Nickel? Do you which side the majority of scholars comes down on?

      My default is to go with the majority until I have reason to believe otherwise.

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  3. I’m not sure why ( western scholars) have come up with this conclusion which has no base in Quran nor Sunnah whatsoever.
    Quran is more clear about the fact that the book got corrupted by ( Hiding , Writing by their own hands then attributed that to Allah, Misrepresnting deliberately , denying, and Forgetting).

    Quran used highly description for Torah and Injeel according to its definition for those books.
    Moreover, David got it wrong in many areas based on his ignornce of Arabic and Hadith scince at that debate.
    ===================
    I just want to argue from one point of view which can be concluded logically since Quran and Hadiths by themselves are very very clear about this subject.
    We know from christian/Jewish prospective, that the author of Quran got his stories from Jewish/christian scriptures. We keep hearing from christians that the prophet (pbuh) was plagiarizing from all sources that were available in his time, and even he used agnostic gospels!
    Based on that, if that auther was very skillful in plagiarizing, why did he, for example, affirm that Aaron( as) was not the one who cmmonded for golden calf to be built every time that story is hammered in his book ?
    Why did that auther emphasize that Allah ( God) didn’t get weariness after he created the heaven and the earth?
    Why did he affirm repeatedly that the angels didn’t eat when Abraham invited them to his house?
    Why did that author affirm that Solomom has never worshiped idols?
    Why did he affirm that the label ( Son of God) is illegitimate for anyone?

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    • In addition,
      In that very dabate ( i.e in the same link you posted, Richard) , I hope all of you to listen to what David said as a conclusion at
      [ 1:27:13 ] , and more important to this Questin and the answers given by both debaters at [ 1:51:49 ]

      ……..
      If you finished, please watch this conclusion given by David at
      [ 00:54 ], especiily when he said ” an Islamic twist ”

      ????
      Any thoughts?

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    • If you apply the same standards for the reliabilty of the quran, the outcome for the quran is even worse than for the bible.
      The hadith tell the muslims the history of the collection of the verses from the quran. When were these hadith written? At least 200 years after Muhammads death, based on narrations. 200 years! These were even not children or disciples of the eyewitnesses.Or even the children of their children. I hear many muslims saying that also hadith from Bukhari and Sahih muslims are not reliable. So why are the hadith about the collection of the quran by Uthman then reliable? It is not more than a believe.
      But this believe is based on ignoring the facts. There is no complete manuscript of the quran with a few hundreds years after Muhammads death. And the non-complete manuscipts that are there are also at least 100 years later than Muhammads death and CONTAINS MANY DIFFERENCES. Muslims MUST face and admit this.
      There are also historical proofs that Muhammad did not came from Mecca, but from Petra, Jordan. Mecca was never mentioned in historical books, until the 8 or 9th century. Isn’t it strange that God hide such a important place for all mankind for so many years?

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    • The transmission of the Quran is based on literally thousands of people having memorised it during and after Muhammad’s lifetime. The standard vocalisation of the Quran was definitively establish by Uthman with the agreement of all the Companions. It is this text from which all subsequent recitations are derived.

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    • @Paul: Where did you get this information from? From what sources? When were these sources written? What about the earliest (incomplete) manuscripts of the quran, with their many differences?

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    • The Muwatta is a famous collection of Hadith. Google about it for more information. It is the first book of Islamic law and the first recorded collection of Hadith. Bukhari and Muslim frequently quote sayings from it. It was copied thousands of times during Malik’s lifetime. He met a large number of men of knowledge who knew the Companions of Muhammad and wrote down Hadith from the most reliable of them.

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    • Regarding the Quran – this was massively memorised and transmitted during and immediately after the prophets life time. We have nearly all of the written text of the Quran within a century of Muhammad, the differences are well known and do not effect the meaning of the text.

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    • I think you have no idea about Quran. In fact, if any christin knew the nature of Quran, he would not even dare to make any comparison between the Quran and the bible.
      =======
      ” Muhhmed didn’t come from Mecca”
      These silly statments are not even worthy to be responded.

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    • When did Malik live? Far after the death of Muhammad. So what proof do you have that his hadith are true? You have not. Not one single. He became an adult ~100 yrs after Muhammads death.
      It is very unlikely that he ever met an eyewitness of Muhammad.
      It says nothing about the reliability of the quran. The writers of the quran are unknown. Muslims say that some books of the bible are unreliable because we are not sure about the author of the letter to the Hebrews and doubt about the author of some other books from the bible. But it is even worse with the quran: muslims have no idea about all the writers of the quran. Muhammad did not write it, he was illiterate.
      Again: if you apply the same standards how muslims ‘judge’ the bible to the quran, the bible is historically much more reliable than the quran.

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    • @Abdullah: You are pretty predictabe: every muslim who meet someone who do not agree with muslims is blamed that ‘he has no idea of the quran’. I met many muslims who know less about the quran and hadith than I know. And many other ignore historical facts and rely on what they’ve been told only.

      The nature of the quran? Which quran? There are many versions of the quran.
      Do you mean the current quran you use? I am not impressed at all. It is an incoherent collection of fragments of (corrupted) stories from the bible, Talmud, apocryphal and other ancient books, stories without begin and end (except one), many repetitions, death threats (especially in the later Medinian surahs), added verses that were ‘revealed’ when it fits Muhammads desires very well. And also women unfriendly verses about the worth of the testimonies of women and so on.

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  4. Contrary to whatNickel suggests, the scholarly consensus is that the Qurʾān does indeed make the chargethat Jewish and Christian scriptures have been textually corrupted-Walid Saleh

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  5. NT scholarship acknowledges that according to Papias’ statement/description regarding the authorship and version or logia of Matthew, the current greek canonical GMatt is a different version and therefore it is unknown to what extent the canonical gospel contains any of the logia of the original Matthew that Papias described…to what degree is actually the gospel of Jesus uttered and what other unverifiable sources comprise the canonical matt is unknown….furthermore..and for example, based on the descriptions/signs of the prophethood of Muhammad that both Jews and Christians referred to according to their scriptures illustrates that the scriptures they referred to are not the canonical books of the bible…there were no printing presses back in the 6 century.. only the religious elite had access or own some of the scrolls..so when the quran referres to gospel and torah it means something else other than the canonical books in the bible…

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    • according to Hadith, Jews and Christians were not referring to the unreliable canonical gospels or torah when they acknowledged the signs of prophethood of Muhammad p…

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    • it seems the source of truth for Christians living at the time of Muhammad p was not necessarily the canonical gospels…

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  6. A quote from Montgomery Watt:

    “While it is stated that Jesus received from God a scripture called the Gospel (or Evangel – Injil), there is nothing to suggest that this was any more like our actual gospels in the New Testament than the tawrat received by Moses was like the actual Pentateuch. Indeed Muslims usually deny that our actual gospels are the book received by Jesus, since that consisted entirely of revelations from God and not of historical statements about Jesus.”

    [William Montgomery Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters. Perceptions And Misperceptions, Routledge, 1991, p. 24]

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    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for this.

      The question is how we put these three quotes (two from me, one from you) together:

      The first quote I provided from Watt perhaps allows for some kind of corruption in the former scriptures, just not a ‘general view of the corruption of the text’. I’m not sure what he means here – perhaps he means not a general corruption, in which case he could be mirroring some Islamic sources which (acc. Nickel) teach corruption only in passages about Muhammad.

      The second of my quotes doesn’t allow for corruption of ‘the whole Bible’ ‘in the distant past’, nor the OT (presumably including in the OT). So the OT hasn’t been corrupted, but perhaps the NT could have been!

      I really would have to read Watt directly to see what he had to say.

      Your quote from Watt could therefore mean that (in his opinion) the Qur’an does teach the corruption of the Injil. But not necessarily. It’s just as possible (yea I think likely based on certain verses) that the Qur’an affirms the Injil used by Christians, not realising that the NT Gospels used by Christians aren’t the same as the Qur’anic portrayal of the Injil.

      Anyway, for me the jury is still out on exactly what Watt was trying to say. Thanks for pushing me to take a more nuanced position regarding Watt!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Paul and I discussed this further via private message. I found another quote from Watt, quoted via Nickel, which (at least when quoted in Nickel) seems to confirm that Watt does indeed hold to mine and Nickel’s position.

      Paul currently has Nickel’s book, so I cannot reproduce the quote here.

      Paul thought we would have to read Watt’s book directly to see exactly what he is arguing. I agree that this is preferable, time and resources permitting, but the quote as reproduced in Nickel seems to me to (on probability) be sufficient.

      Like

  7. Hi Richard,

    >> The Qur’an Affirms the Reliability of the Bible

    Where does the Quran make or come close to making such affirmation concerning the Bible (a massive equivocation with the Injeel and the Tawrat)? Substantiation, please.

    >> The Qur’an believes that Jews and Christians […] have not actually corrupted the texts themselves.

    How does the following Quranic verse for instance not affirm the opposite of your claim?

    Quran 2:75:
    Sahih International
    Do you covet [the hope, O believers], that they would believe for you while a party of them used to hear the words of Allah and then DISTORT the Torah after they had understood it while they were knowing?
    Shakir
    Do you then hope that they would believe in you, and a party from among them indeed used to hear the Word of Allah, then ALTERED it after they had understood it, and they know (this).
    Dr. Ghali
    Do you then long for (the fact) that they should believe you, and a group of them already were hearing the Speech of Allah; thereafter they PERVERTED it even after they had considered it, while they knew (the Truth).
    Pickthall
    Have ye any hope that they will be true to you when a party of them used to listen to the word of Allah, then used to CHANGE it, after they had understood it, knowingly?
    Muhsin Khan
    Do you (faithful believers) covet that they will believe in your religion inspite of the fact that a party of them (Jewish rabbis) used to hear the Word of Allah [the Taurat (Torah)], then they used to CHANGE it knowingly after they understood it?

    Like

  8. This article might be of some interest:

    The Qur’an’s critical – and corrective – view of the Christian scriptures

    https://bloggingtheology.net/2016/05/16/the-wider-horizon-of-scriptural-recall-in-the-quran/

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi,

    I think you are not giving Sidney’s argument the credit it deserves. I would like to flesh out an explanation which I think makes a good case for a positive Qur’anic position on the unreliability of previous scripture. The crux of the argument is the fact that 1) the Qur’an shows literary awareness of the actual text of the bible and then 2) chooses to disagree with it.

    Let’s look at some examples.

    1. Syriac psalm quotation (from Neal Robinson’s paper) – last paragraph is crucial :

    “There is, however, no reference to Bakka. For this, I suggest that we should turn to Psalm 84.6. The text of this verse is notoriously corrupt. Most English translations are based on the Hebrew version. This refers to people passing through ( ʿobrê) a valley, which in some manuscripts is the Valley of the Balsam Tree (bākā) and in others the Valley of Weeping (bekeh). The word moreh also occurs, although in this context it is not certain whether it means ‘teacher’ or ‘early rain’. However, the Christians of Arabia were probably more familiar with the Syriac version, which differs from the Hebrew in a number of respects and has some remarkable similarities to the Qur’anic verses that concern us.

    It runs as follows: Blessed is the man (bar nashā) whose help is of Thee. And Thy ways (sh’bīl) are in his heart. They passed through the Valley of Weeping (bakāth) and made it a house of dwelling (bayth maʿamrā). For the law-giver enwraps with blessing (bōrkath). They will go from strength to strength.

    Note the presence of Syriac words corresponding to bayt, nās, mubāraka and sabīl in Q. 3:96, and to al-bayt al-maʿmūr in Q. 52:4. Moreover the Valley of ‘Weeping’ (bakath) resembles Bakka. One might perhaps add that the first reference in Genesis to weeping is at 21.16, where Hagar, who had been driven out with her son Ishmael, ‘lifted up her eyes and wept’. It is therefore a distinct possibility that this text was thought by some to have a bearing on the debate about the first house established for humankind.”

    2. Allusion to Isaiah 42 (from my article https://ponderingislam.com/2016/07/24/prophet-muhammad-in-the-bible/)

    The verses Q7:157-158 assert that the Prophet Muḥammad is the ʾummī (gentile) messenger who is spoken of in the Bible. This theme is present in Isaiah 42- the servant of God is brought forward to be a “covenant to the people, a light to the nations”. His calling is universal: the goyim (Isaiah 42:6), meaning nations, are the objects of his mission, thus clearly encompassing all the people, and not just Israel. This universality is stressed in Q7:158- “Say, ‘Oh Mankind, I am truly the Messenger of God to you all.” The Prophet brings light to the people by God’s own doing (al-nūr aladhī ʾunzila maʿahu), and so does the servant in Isaiah 42- “I [Yahveh] have given you… [as] a light to the nations.” The Prophet is an ethical teacher “who commands them to do right and forbids them to do wrong,” an idea embedded in the servant’s establishment of “mishpāṭ”, which refers to ethical justice as argued in the exegetical section of this essay, while the Prophet’s role as a liberator, “he relieves them of their burdens, and the iron collars” finds parallels in Isaiah 42:7, where the servant is explicitly tasked “to bring out prisoners from the dungeon.” The Isaian prophet pauses between his description of the coming servant to declare the praise of Yahveh, and even this praise does the Qurʾān in 7:157-158 echo. The Qurʾān praises “Him who owns the heavens and the earth.” – compare to Isaiah 42:5, Yahveh “created the heavens… spread out the earth.” Life-giving power is associated with God in Q7:158; “There is no God but Him; He gives life and death,” and in Isaiah 42, Yahveh “gives breath to the people who walk upon [the earth].” Finally, monotheism is expressed both in Isaiah 42- “I am Yahveh, that is my name… I give glory to no other, nor my praise to idols”- and the call of the Prophet in Q7:158, “There is no God but Him.” There is certainly good reason to believe that the Qurʾān in 7:157-158 is actually referring to this chapter of Isaiah, as every theme in these two verses is found in Isaiah 42. This cannot be a mere coincidence.

    3. Wordplay on deuteronomy:

    “In Surah Baqarah 2:93:

    And [recall] when We took your covenant and raised over you the mount, [saying], “Take what We have given you with determination and listen.” They said [instead], “We hear and disobey.” And their hearts absorbed [the worship of] the calf because of their disbelief. Say, “How wretched is that which your faith enjoins upon you, if you should be believers.”

    In Deuteronomy 5:27, the same incident is recorded, although the Israelites say, “we hear and we obey”, that is w’šāma‘nū w‘āśînū in Hebrew. The Qur’an, however, uses a very similar sounding verb to turn this very phrase on its head: Here, the jews say “samiʿnā wa ʿaṣaynā.”, or “we hear and we disobey”.

    Ofcourse, commentators note that the Qur’an implies that this was not actually vocalized by the Jews, since the mount did not fall on them and the Jews were not wiped out, but rather that their proceeding actions reflected this very attitude of “hearing and disobeying”, hence the following statement “And their hearts absorbed [the worship of] the calf because of their disbelief.” In other words, according to the Qur’an, the Jews with Moses might as well have stated that had heard and they disobeyed because of their worship of the calf.

    This brilliant play on words requires a knowledge of Hebrew on behalf of the author of the Qur’an, and is simply one example of the masterful rhetoric that the Qur’an is capable of.”

    ===============

    These are some examples where the Qur’an alludes to, or directly quotes old testament text. The arabic of the Qur’an follows the syriac of the psalm, using it effectively enough in its own rhetoric to prove close familiarity with the text on behalf of the author. The same is said for Isaiah 42- infact, much more so, as unlike narrative or hymn you really wouldn’t expect a text as obscure as a prophecy in Isaiah 42 to be widely available on oral form to the author of the Qur’an who knows arabic. If we imagine that the Prophet Muhammad is the author, he must have either read the biblical text itself, or known it was in the bible from a reliable source- this, he had access to the present text of the bible. The third example drives my point home most clearly. This is a play on words on the *original hebrew* of the text, which would not be possible unless the author *knew* the very words of the Hebrew text.

    We establish that the Qur’anic author knew the contents of the bible. This is not simply a case of the Qur’an making up stories because it doesn’t know what is in the old testament.

    What does that tell us? Let’s assume now for a second that the Qur’an doesn’t say that the old testament is corrupt. Let’s say instead that the Qur’an believes that the jews are misquoting the text. But, we know from these previous examples that the Qur’anic author had access to the original contents of the old testament, reliably enough so that it could incorporate its vocabulary and argumentation into His own book. But at times the stories of the Qur’an are completely different from the old testament. Now why would the Qur’anic author, who thinks the original old testament is reliable *as you are arguing*, disagree with the Old Testament while knowing the original text?

    It doesn’t make sense. The only other explanation is that the Qur’anic author does not think the old testament is reliable. There is no other reasonable explanation (If you have another explanation please share it with me). There are far more examples of the same nature as what I’ve written about just above.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for taking the time to share this, it was very intriguing and thought provoking.

      To respond quickly –

      1) Example 1 – There are some intriguing verbal similarities here – but the concepts seem to be quite different. The words are used quite differently, which makes me wonder whether there really is any dependence here. In texts as long as the Bible and the Qu’ran, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find a couple of verses independently using similar words.

      2) As for your second example – There are some close conceptual parallels, but I don’t find the verbal parallels (at least in translation) to be close enough to necessarily posit dependence. It could be common concepts naturally arising due to the instrinsic function of a central religious figure – the prophet/Messiah of Isaiah 42 and the prophet of Surah 7.

      3) Even if there is direct dependence, it doesn’t seem close enough to suggest written rather than oral dependence. I’m really not sure Isaiah (a popular OT book) would be that obscure, particularly a messianic text like isaiah 42, which may well have fuelled prophetic expectations in Muhammad’s environment.

      4) The play on Hebrew and Arabic in example 3 doesn’t seem particularly surprising. You essentially have one similar phrase, which is not that hard to imagine being a coincidence (it doesn’t contain any unusual features that wouldn’t be reproduced independently), and Hebrew and Arabic are cognate languages, thus it’s not surprising they sound familiar.

      I do find your suggestions very interesting though, and I have learnt a lot from your post 🙂

      Fundamentally, I may have missed (as you note) part of Griffith’s argument – I hope to read the book again in the light of what you have said.

      Could you please clarify – the long quotation under point 1, what article/book of Neal Robinson does this belong to? And where does the quotation in the third point derive from?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the response

      “1) Example 1 – There are some intriguing verbal similarities here – but the concepts seem to be quite different. The words are used quite differently, which makes me wonder whether there really is any dependence here. In texts as long as the Bible and the Qu’ran, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find a couple of verses independently using similar words.”

      That requires too much of a coincidence; “al-bayt al-maʿmur” occurs nowhere in the Qur’an, the term Bakka also occurring once. Robinson’s point is that the psalmic verse could be used as a description for Mecca (not saying it necessarily is) – if the Qur’an uses rare words that match a syriac hymn that would reasonably be available to it’s author in the late antique milieu, and there seems to be a *good rhetorical motivation to do so*, then it’s probably a case of intertextuality.

      This is from Neal Robinson’s paper “Surat AlʿImran and Those with the Greatest Claim to Abraham”

      2) “As for your second example – There are some close conceptual parallels, but I don’t find the verbal parallels (at least in translation) to be close enough to necessarily posit dependence. It could be common concepts naturally arising due to the instrinsic function of a central religious figure – the prophet/Messiah of Isaiah 42 and the prophet of Surah 7.”

      Once more, I think there’s too much of a coincidence here. Look at what the Qur’an is saying-

      **Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel,** who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful.

      It explicitly states that this description is “written with them” in the Torah and the Gospel. Then it goes on to provide this description. Almost every single item provided here is found in Isaiah 42. I think that’s too much of a coincidence, don’t you think? Especially the metaphors of shackles and burdens – these are not overly common in the Qur’an, but are found here and in Isaiah 42.

      “3) Even if there is direct dependence, it doesn’t seem close enough to suggest written rather than oral dependence. I’m really not sure Isaiah (a popular OT book) would be that obscure, particularly a messianic text like isaiah 42, which may well have fuelled prophetic expectations in Muhammad’s environment.”

      I suspect there is a syriac intermediary here but I cannot check yet as I don’t know syriac.

      Let me concede your point then. I ask you this: Let’s say this was available in oral form to the Prophet – surely the narrative stories of the bible were even better known, right? Let’s take the story of Adam and Eve and their fall from the garden. The Qur’an’s author would have obviously been aware of the story, but modifies it according to its own theology. This point is important- it removes any trace of the original sin, and posits that humans were moral creatures from the very beginning, rather than receiving this sense from eating the fruit. The Qur’an’s version would not have been anything familiar to the christians and jews. Surely the Qur’anic author, who was able to allude to chapter 42 of Isaiah (albeit its oral form), would have had access to the biblical stories (in oral form), right? Then why disagree with these stories?

      Now you might say, “well, the Qur’an is saying that these are the actual stories in the bible but jews and christians are lying”. This is IMO just untenable: Firstly because we see that the author has access to prophetic books (like Isaiah) through what it believed to be a reliable channel (or else why quote it?), so it’s easy to believe that He would have access to the narrative stories as well. He knows for sure that the Qur’anic stories aren’t in line with the biblical ones.

      Secondly, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the author for a minute. The Qur’an obviously spends a lot of space trying to persuade the “People of the book” to accept the Prophet Muhammad. The author obviously knows that these people have actual copies of the bible with them. Why would the author then assert that they’re lying about the contents of their own book regarding all the stories which have an alternative Qur’anic version? All they need to do is check the bible, and know that the Prophet is simply making it up. The charge of textual falsification (or abrogation)on the other hand, is much more difficult to negotiate with – hence the verses of Sura al-Baqarah.

      “4) The play on Hebrew and Arabic in example 3 doesn’t seem particularly surprising. You essentially have one similar phrase, which is not that hard to imagine being a coincidence (it doesn’t contain any unusual features that wouldn’t be reproduced independently), and Hebrew and Arabic are cognate languages, thus it’s not surprising they sound familiar.”

      The problem with this view lies in the fact that the Qur’anic phrase is literally the direct opposite of the Deuteronomic phrase. Deuteronomy says, “We hear and we obey”, and the Qu’ran says “we hear and we disobey”. The hebrew “we obey” comes from the root ʿayin-sin-hey, while the arabic “we disobey” comes from ʿayin-ṣad-yā. So they’re different words – certainly not cognates – and just sound similar. Your point would make sense if the Qur’an is verbatim quoting Deuteronomy, but it’s not.

      Both instances are talking about the same event. Furthermore the Qur’an is obviously not being literal (if it was, then it would say the jews were completely wiped out, which it does not, in the context and in light of the fact that there were jews in front of the Prophet himself) – so it’s as if the Qur’an is acknowledging the deuteronomic events: yes, the jews did say “we hear and we obey” – but their proceeding actions (ie. the worship of the calf) proved otherwise, hence the Qur’an immediately follows with: “And their hearts absorbed [the worship of] the calf because of their disbelief.”

      So once more- the verse shows the general awareness of the timeline of deuteronomy for the calf incident (ie. Israel first pledge themselves to YHWH, then worship the calf), and is able to use it polemically against the jews. That the deuteronomic phrase “v’shamaʿnu v’asinū, sounds *a lot like* samiʿnā wa ʿaṣaynā in Qur’an’s own rhetorical reference to the event, just seems too much to be a coincidence.

      This point was shown to me by a friend of mine as he was writing up some notes for Surah alBaqarah. I copypasted my blog entry which summarized what he said.

      FYI griffith didn’t use the examples I posted here. He argued along similar lines though.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve inspired me to buy Griffith’s book, and read it again!

      Like

    • Hi Taha,

      Thank you again for your thoughtful comments 🙂

      1) While I would still think many of the words could be coincidental, the rarity of Bakka in the Qur’an (as you point out) combined with the parallels makes me think there is a conscious allusion. Thank you for raising this issue to my awareness! Thank you for the citation, perhaps I will be able to read Robinson’s work one day.

      2) As with (1), while the similarities in themselves are perhaps not close enough to refer to a parallel with certainty, I like the point you made about how the Qur’an says we will find Muhammad in our scripture – and then proceeds to bear similarity to Isaiah 42. As with point 1, you have convinced me that there is an allusion – thank you!

      I do however stick with my point that the borrowing may well be oral rather than written – not only is this a priori quite possible, but it also explains how there are some similarities, but also divergences – oral cultures are not always as precise about wording, from what I have read.

      You raise some other intriguing points –

      My reading of the Qur’an (the texts I would appeal to have not been refuted above, which is fine, that’s not what you were intending to do) is that the Qur’an affirms our scriptures, but think we (Jews and or Christians) misrepresent them. This fits perfectly well with all of the above – at times the Qur’an quotes the Bible (even if a bit loosely), because it is the true scripture. Whenever the Qur’an contradicts our scriptures, the author of the Qur’an just says we conceal the truth, or that we misrepresent it. I think this fits a number of Qur’anic texts both prima facie, but also when some of the classical Islamic sources are used to interpret the Qur’an.

      Part of your response is that the author of the Qur’an seems to have had some kind of reliable access to the scriptures. This may be true, but it may only be oral access – in which case, he has to depend on the Jews and Christians, and if they read something he doesn’t like, he can accuse them of orally corrupting it. But I would also say that just because Muhammad may have overheard something a few times, or had access in the early period, doesn’t mean he had sustained access to check out everything he would like.

      I also find the following a plausible scenario. For example, the opinion of Fr. Buhl (Encyclopaedia of Islam, First edition, ‘Tahrif’) – ‘This accusation [of Tahrif] was really the only way of escape for Muhammad out of a dangerous situation, when he came into closer contact with the Jews in Medina. He had from the beginning appealed to the evidence of the “peoples of a scripture”, i.e. the Jews and the Christians, as he was firmly convinced that the contents of the Old and New Testament coincided with what he preached on the basis of his revelations. But his ideas of incidents and laws in the Old Testament contained such misunderstanding that they naturally provoked criticism and ridicule from the Jews and thus he was put in a false position. If his expositions were contradictory to the old revealed scripture, his claim to have received them by divine revelation was at stake. But as his consciousness of his prophetic inspiration was unassailable, there was only one thing for him to do, namely to declare that the Jews had maliciously corrupted their sacred books while he himself had given their true content. It was a bold assertion but was made easier for him by the fact that these scriptures were sealed books to his followers, while they believed firmly in the truth of his words.’

      In response to your saying that the people of the book would know Muhammad was incorrect – (1) most of them couldn’t read, and so this may only apply to the Christian and Jewish clergy and rabbis (2) the point (like in the scenario above) may not have been to appeal to the people of the book, but those who were Muslims. The issue was not evangelising Jews and Christians, but defending Muhammad against their accusation. This is apologetics for the faithful, not to convert.

      In response to the Deuteronomy/Surah 2:

      My apologies, I misread your first post. But I still don’t see the parallels as that close – we are only talking about a couple of words being similar. The coincidence perhaps only lies as the level of the Arabic word for ‘disobey’ being similar to the Hebrew word for ‘obey’ – once that is the case, the fact that the author of the Qur’an uses this word isn’t particularly surprising – we would expect him to use this word to make his point. And the fact that there are similarities between these words isn’t particularly surprising (though I confess I am no lexicographer) – obey and disobey are similar concepts, except that one is the inverse of the former. But there is a common shared meaning. The fact that this might be reflected in similar Arabic/Hebrew roots isn’t that surprising to me. But I can’t say much more, nor assess the weight of your point, until I learn more about Arabic.

      You may think I’m speculating a lot above, and to some extent I am. But that is because I am speculating in response to what I consider to be your speculative inferences/conclusions (I don’t mean that as an insult), drawn from moderately good arguments (which don’t necessarily lead to those conclusions, however). I think we are both speculating to some extent. However ultimately, I think my position makes better sense of the meaning of many more explicit Qur’anic passages.

      Thank you again for such a stimulating post!

      Like

    • “….. misrepresent them. This fits perfectly well with all of the above – at times the Qur’an quotes the Bible (even if a bit loosely), because it is the true scripture. Whenever the Qur’an contradicts our scriptures, the author of the Qur’an just says we conceal the truth, or that we misrepresent it”

      1) How can you apply this conclusion with Sarah ( 2:79) without neglecting its context ( 2:75) – ( 2:80) ?
      Also, ( cncealing/ Misrepresenting) could be done textually.

      2) If the author of Quran just had the only ( oral) versions of Biblical stories, would it not have been so odd that no one corrected him , especially those who converted to Islam such as Rabbi Abdullah bn Salam. ( The same question in that debate ( 1:51:49) .

      3) There are many examples that show that the author of Quran is very aware of the bible and its version of the stories, yet it doesn’t agree with them .

      Like

    • Hi Taha,

      I’m just reading Griffith’s again, and came across the following, which seems to be of relevance:

      ‘The narratives are [italics] sometimes hauntingly close to the biblical versions, but they frequently incorporate non-biblical, Jewish or Christian apocryphal and traditional lore; and there are almost never any actual quotations from a known biblical text or, for that matter, from any other texts. These observations give rise to three preliminary conclusions: the sources of the Qur’an’s biblical and traditional reminiscences were oral…given the lack of actual quotations from the Bible, the presence of the Bible in the Qur’an is not textual…In short, the Qur’an mirrors in writing the unwritten modes of transmission of the biblical and traditional lore’

      p. 89, Kindle Locations 2080-2089

      I wonder if this challenges your ‘The crux of the argument is the fact that 1) the Qur’an shows literary awareness of the actual text of the bible’. You are welcome to argue this, but I’m not sure Griffith does. And that’s fine, but if he doesn’t argue that, then perhaps my criticisms of him still stand, because he does not make the defence that you do.

      I say this not just on the basis of that quote, but because I am re-reading some of the book. If there is a bit of the book which does talk about similarities sufficient to show textual dependence, please do let me know where they are, and I am happy to stand corrected.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Similarly p. 91, Kindle Location 2126

      ‘To judge by the reminiscences of its narratives as we find them in the Islamic scripture, the Bible that came within the purview of the Qur’an was not simply the canonical scripture of either the Jews or the Christians, nor was it a written text. Rather, in a number of its surahs [italics] the Qur’an is in dialogue with narratives about a number of biblical figures, which narratives had circulated both orally and in writing in Late Antique Jewish and Christian communities. According to the hypothesis being proposed here, they came into Arabic orally.’

      P. 94, Kindle Location 2164.

      ‘very often the suggestion of literary dependence has been made, citing the analogous passages as sources or influences on Qur’anic narratives. Only relatively recently have the Syriac memre [italics] in particular been considered as providing possible ‘subtexts’ for a deeper understanding of certain passages n the Qur’an, an inquiry that seems to be particularly promising. But it seems even more likely that study of the memre [italics] may help the historian gain and understanding of how familiar features of the ‘interpreted Bible’ found their way into the Arabic-speaking milieu of Muhammad and the Qur’an’

      Liked by 1 person

    • We are coming closer to our desired conclusion 🙂

      You are right in that Griffith believes in an oral bible. My mistake for not pointing it out earlier- my views do differ somewhat from his. He thinks that translations would have been made on the spot. However, I do still believe that a case could be made for some literary exposure of the Bible to the Qur’an: Griffith himself noted some allusions to the written bible. Note that in 7:157-158 it speaks of “maktūban ʿindahum” – ie, “**written** with them”. Anyway, let’s drop that for now, we cannot (yet) go any further until I look at possible syriac translations present at the time.

      I also think the third example has weight – if one does know hebrew and arabic, it’s clear what the author is doing here. The Qur’an could have used a different word for disobey – but it chose one that mirrors the hebrew text closely in sound. The words “obey” and “disobey” both in arabic and hebrew are not etymologically related- it’s not a simple case of adding a negation prefix such as here in english (dis-). But let’s drop this example for now.

      For me, literal quotations of the bible do not require that there is an actual written source available to the author since I do believe He is God. So for me, the specifics of Griffith’s reasoning don’t really matter, only that he makes a good point about how the Qur’an perceives previous scripture.

      “In response to your saying that the people of the book would know Muhammad was incorrect – (1) most of them couldn’t read, and so this may only apply to the Christian and Jewish clergy and rabbis (2) the point (like in the scenario above) may not have been to appeal to the people of the book, but those who were Muslims. The issue was not evangelising Jews and Christians, but defending Muhammad against their accusation. This is apologetics for the faithful, not to convert.”

      Let’s assume this is true for a second. Why not go the route of textual corruption, rather than (oral) falsification? Certainly, the former claim is safer, right? Now, while keeping this in mind, pay attention to the following:

      So can you [believers] hope that such people will believe you, when some of them used to hear the words of God and then deliberately twist them, even when they understood them? 76 When they meet the believers, they say, ‘We too believe.’ But when they are alone with each other they say, ‘How could you tell them about God’s revelation [to us]? They will be able to use it to argue against you before your Lord! Have you no sense?’ 77 Do they not know that God is well aware of what they conceal and what they reveal? 78 Some of them are uneducated, and know the Scripture only through wishful thinking. They rely on guesswork. 79 So woe to those who write the scripture (al-kitāb) down with their own hands and then claim, ‘This is from God,’ in order to make some small gain. Woe to them for what their hands have written! Woe to them for all that they have earned!

      Now we clearly see the accusation of *textual* falsification of the book in this last verse. That is, the Qur’anic author knows that the books in possession of the jewish/christian community do not agree with His Qur’an. Certainly, the accusation of oral distortion is there – but significantly, so is the accusation of a written forgery. This is why other scholars such as Waled Saleh take the same opinion as Buhl in the encyclopedia entry you quoted. The conclusion is right – the accusation of textual falsification is only natural in the face of the opposition that the author would have met from the jewish and christian crowd.

      I don’t agree with the premise though – I don’t think the author is negotiating with a blunder. I think He knows exactly what He’s doing: the careful allusions to the bible give the impression that the author is quite familiar with the stories of the christians and the jews, and is able to mold them well, changing things for His own intentions. I also think the Qur’anic discourse shows strong interest in converting the Jews and Christians: thus why the Qur’an would appeal to the bible in the first place, quoting prophecy and hymn, in conversation with the jews and christians! It would not be the Muslim arabs that converted from their pagan religion that would even recognize the significance of the allusions, but rather the Prophet’s jewish/christian audience. But this is all tangential.

      Like

    • Abdullah – thank you for your thoughts 🙂 I think most of your questions are implicitly being discussed in this dialogue, so I won’t explicitly address them. You have a good question about 2:79, but I should clarify, that’s not the ayah in Surah 2 that I was referring to above

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    • In terms of why he didn’t go the route of textual falsification, either because he sincerely believed the words of Allah couldn’t be changed, and because he had already appealed to the texts before finding out what they contained, and so consistency demanded that he continue doing so. This seems to be what Fr. Buhl suggests in the quote I provided. Or, to add another option, not just because he had to be consistent with what he formerly said, but because Muhammad still did need to appeal to the former scriptures and their prediction of him and the alleged continuity as evidence of his own prophethood. Without these last two points, there may have been few reasons for people to believe in him. And as I mentioned before, it may have only been a few people who could actually read the former scriptures, who would not have been persuaded by this appeal.

      2:79 I think is referring to not altering a copy of the scripture, but writing another religious text. This could be a commentary or religious text taking the place of scripture, or it could be someone writing something and claiming it actually is scripture. If the unlettered ones in v. 78 refers to the fact that they are ignorant of the former revelation (I read a discussion of ummi elsewhere that could support this rendering), then this strengthens the possibility that it is not a copy of the Torah being corrupted, but something new being written. I would also note that ‘the book’ is vague – it is not clear if this is the Gospel, Torah or something else. Gordon Nickel notes that when the terms ‘Gospel’ or ‘Torah’ are – spoken of by name, textual corruption is never alleged. It is also not clear who these people are ‘Woe to those….’ This may only be a ‘party of them’, as the Qur’an says elsewhere – this therefore wouldn’t affect the corruption of other texts, as at least one or two Muslim scholars have noted (not on this passage, but in general). I think there may also be a Muslim commentator on this passage who says it’s the Jewish exegetical writings, e.g. Mishnah or Talmud.

      My point in that the paragraph is that, to me, this text has many interpretive challenges, and should not be used to overturn clearer, frequent evidence in the Qur’an that our text has not been changed.

      From what I have read about early Islamic history, Muhammad did try to win over the Jews, but they resisted and he got frustrated. If I may speculate, this could well be (as Fr. Buhl says) because he appealed to their scriptures, and claimed to be prophesied in, but both appeals were rejected by the Jews. He then had to maintain consistency with what he preached before, in upholding the textual validity of the former scriptures. But then to add my own interpretation, he may have ceased to actually think he would win many of them over, even though he had to continue saying there was continuity so as to save face, or because he truly believed it

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    • With all due respect Richard I think we are just unnecessarily complicating matters.

      “either because he sincerely believed the words of Allah couldn’t be changed,”

      Please provide proof for this. Every time we see the verses “none can change the words of God” it’s in the context of prophecy, and God fulfilling His words without anyone to frustrate them.

      “and so consistency demanded that he continue doing so.”

      ” but because Muhammad still did need to appeal to the former scriptures and their prediction of him and the alleged continuity as evidence of his own prophethood”

      But the author could just claim that He is simply going back to the original scripture, uncorrupted, not the copies in the hands of the jews. All it would require is some admission that parts of the scripture are authentic and have some truth in them. This is a claim the Qur’an would not disagree with either. Some display of familiarity with the contemporary jewish scripture would have been rhetorically impressive. I go back to my original point – the Qur’an modifies the bible while showing awareness of it. Note that the narratives are not completely different; the basic features are still there. So that would mean the Qur’anic author does not believe these texts are completely useless; only that some parts need correction (which the Qur’an provides details on).

      “2:79 I think is referring to not altering a copy of the scripture, but writing another religious text. This could be a commentary or religious text taking the place of scripture, or it could be someone writing something and claiming it actually is scripture. ”

      Al-kitaab in the Qur’an usually refers to the old testament or the Torah of Moses where it is not a description of the Qur’an. This is almost certainly speaking about the old testament. The stories in surah baqara up to this point have almost all been from the old testament. The most natural question that would come up on the part of the jews is why their books disagree with the Prophet’s.

      This cannot be any generic book being attributed divine origin. It says *al*kitaab, *the book*. So it’s literally “woe to those who write THE book with their own hands…” What text is so dominant in the minds of the Jews other than the old testament that might warrant such a title? Can you give an example in the Qur’an where al-kitaab has been applied to generic, newly written books, rather than the old testament or the Qur’an?

      “it is not clear if this is the Gospel, Torah or something else. Gordon Nickel notes that when the terms ‘Gospel’ or ‘Torah’ are – spoken of by name, textual corruption is never alleged”

      That’s beside the point, if al-kitaab is the old testament, then this is redundant.

      “My point in that the paragraph is that, to me, this text has many interpretive challenges, and should not be used to overturn clearer, frequent evidence in the Qur’an that our text has not been changed.”

      IMO the clearest, most frequent allegation of textual alteration is what I had argued previously- a display of intimate awareness with the old testament and conscious editing of these stories on the part of the Qur’an.

      Liked by 1 person

    • If I have time today, I’ll hopefully get some quotes and references to back up the last comment I posted 🙂

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    • Acc. Gordon Nickel, Al-Tabari reports a tradition about 2:75 in which the Jewish leaders kept a second book in addition to the Torah. Tabari doesn’t go with this himself, but that interpretation of 75 is there. Tabari himself, and Muqatil ibn Sulayman, both see in v. 75 a verbal alteration at the time of Moses undertaken by some of the seventy leaders. Moses and these leaders verbally reported different things. There is no reason why Moses could not have become dominent, and the truth was preserved in the Torah (as I think the Qur’an assumes).

      I discuss their interpretation of 2:75 in case it is a part of the same unit and relevance as 2:79. Admittedly Muqatil and (possibly) Tabari (see do see textual corruption in v. 79. I disagree, for the reasons I previously mentioned. Nickel mentions that there is no shift in context between the two. v. 75, according to Tabari and Sulayman, speaks of verbal alteration. Nickel notes that v. 76 is about deception, v. 77 about concealing, and v. 78 about guessing. None of these linking verses suggest the subject has changed to corrupting the text of the scriptures – indeed, deception and concealing suggest they know and have the truth, else how can they be deceivers, and how can they conceal it?

      This is one of my biggest objections to your position – the Qur’an continually seems to call the Jews hardhearted for not believing in Muhammad – but how can they be hardhearted if they are just following their corrupted scriptures? To be hard hearted, they must have the plain truth before them – that their scriptures confirm Muhammad and his message.

      I would also add that, at least in the English translation (feel free to comment on the Arabic), v. 79 begins with ‘so’, thus linking it to the previous verses, which I and Nickel argue are about verbal alteration.

      Gordon Nickel deals with 2:79 in detail in ch. 5 of his ‘The Gentle Answer’. He raises many of the points I mentioned. He also claims ‘None of the verbs from the semantic field of tampering appears here, such as harrafa or baddala.’ He spent time earlier on in the book looking at how relevant words are used in the Qur’an.

      Because I discuss this in more detail below, let me quote what Tabari has to say on 2:79 –

      ‘The first of the great classical Muslim commentaries on the Qur’an was the Jāmiʿ al-bayān of al-Ṭabarī. On Q 2: 79, al-Ṭabarī offered the general interpretation that the Jews of the Children of Israel altered the book of Allah and wrote a book according to their own interpretations.[ 199] However, he cited two traditions that are more specific about the object of alteration. First he transmitted a tradition attributed to Abū ʾl-ʿĀliya, “They took up (ʿamada) what Allah sent down in their book of the description of Muḥammad, then tampered with (ḥarrafa) it from its places.”[ 200] Then he cited a substantial tradition attributed to ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān that accuses the Jews of adding to the Torah whatever they liked and erasing what they did not like. “And they erased the name of Muḥammad from the Torah.”[ 201]’

      Nickel, Gordon. The Gentle Answer to the Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification (p. 64). Bruton Gate. Kindle Edition.

      I am no expert on Tabari, but I quote other scholars –

      ‘Even on 2:79, Camilla Adang wrote that Tabari probably meant to say that the tamperers wrote “a separate book, alongside the Torah.” The exegete himself does not use the verbs of subtracting from and adding to the Torah that would clearly specify a falsification of the text. In this reading, the Jews produce a writing from their own minds and then deceive the people by promoting it to them as the Torah. Andrew Rippin drew attention to three traditions included in al-Ṭabarī’s exegesis of Q 2: 79 which seem to simply indicate the Jews write books and claim they are from Allah.[ 223] He suggested these traditions may have nothing to do with the Torah or its alteration and speculated that the kitāb in view might be the Mishnah or the Talmud.[ 224] Other scholars who have pursued this line of explanation are Ignaz Goldziher,[ 225] Hartmut Hirschfeld,[ 226]William Montgomery Watt,[ 227] and Hava Lazarus-Yafeh.[ 228] Support for this suggestion in al-Ṭabarī’s commentary comes in his explanations of Q 2: 42 and 3: 71, where Ibn Zayd explains “confounding the truth with falsehood” as mixing up “the Torah which Allah sent down upon Moses” with “that which they wrote with their hands.”[ 229] In al-Ṭabarī’s mind, for the Jews to write a book that is not the Torah and claim that it is the Torah is reprehensible. But he may understand it to mean simply that the Jews are using a second book alongside the Torah. In a story attributed to Ibn Zayd at Q 2: 75, the Jewish leaders keep a book with false rulings alongside the Torah and choose which book to use based on the bribes of the supplicants. In this scenario, the Jews write a book that is definitely not the Torah, but the Torah itself remains unscathed. Similarly, at Q 2: 79, Ṭabarī finds that the Jews write a book out of their own interpretations, and that their deception of the uneducated people is based on the common people lacking ability to distinguish between the false book and the Torah. Another reason to believe that Ṭabarī may have had more than one book in mind comes from a scenario which the exegete offered in explanation of the phrase, “what the Satans recited over Solomon’s kingdom,” at Q 2: 102: The Jews who were in Madīna during the time of the prophet contended with him through the Torah, but found the Torah to be in full agreement with the Qur’ān, commanding them to follow Muḥammad and to assent to all that the Qur’ān enjoins. They instead disputed with him on the basis of books which people wrote down from the dictation of soothsayers (kuhhan) who lived during the time of Solomon.[ 230]’

      Nickel, Gordon. The Gentle Answer to the Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification (pp. 71-72). Bruton Gate. Kindle Edition.

      I don’t know enough yet to come to any conclusions on the above about Tabari – but I am happy to disagree with Tabari, based upon the arguments from the Qur’an that I and Nickel make.

      It is also interesting to note that not all commentaries include this falsification. Nickel may be referring to more than just Tabari, though I don’t know.

      ‘Within this impressive Islamic interpretive tradition, particular commentators and their famous commentaries have been considered especially authoritative. Not all of these commentaries include accusations of falsification at Q 2: 79 and 3: 78.’

      Nickel, Gordon. The Gentle Answer to the Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification (p. 63). Bruton Gate. Kindle Edition.

      A point I forgot to make is that even if 2:79 does talk about a corruption of the Torah/Gospel, it seems to me to be specific to a particular group in 7th century Arabia. Most of the accusations of corruption in the early Islamic commentators talk about the Jews (not the Christians) corrupting things at the time of Muhammad, corrupting things about Muhammad. This view, even if it is verbal tampering, doesn’t affect the Torah before Muhammad (which textually we actually have manuscripts of), and the Torah outside of Arabia. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on (1) why the accusations are rarely against Christians, even though the Gospel differs from the Qur’an far more than the Torah, (2) why you think these tampering verses affect the Torah prior to Muhammad, and (3) why you think these tampering verses affect the Torah outside of Arabia?

      Just to provide another reference – I noted in my previous comment how Gordon Nickel claims that actual references to Torah and Injil in the Qur’an do not speak of their corruption. He discusses this in ch. 2 of ‘The Gentle Answer’. On how most of the claims of textual corruption are specifically about Muhammad, and corruption by Jews in Medina [note, not earlier Jews], see p. 67/Kindle Location 1599, Nickel.

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    • Salman Al-Farsi p narrated that he confirmed Muhammad p was the last true and seal of the prophets, according to the Christian scriptures, which was verified by the seal found on the prophet’s shoulder blade as described according to the scriptures…there is no mention of this description as a sign of prophethood in the canonical gospels…therefore contextually the Quran is not referring to the canonical gospel as the true scripture at the time of muhammad p…there are many more examples… corruption of the historical jesus narrative or gospel message occurred way before the time of the prophet…as clearly indicated by the falsehood and corruption of the narrative of GJohn about Jesus p

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    • Just few points ..

      1) ” but writing another religious text. This could be a commentary or religious text taking the place of scripture, or it could be someone writing something and claiming it actually is scripture”
      It doesn’t go that way whatsoever. Read it with its own context! From verse (75) to (80).
      It’s explicitly about the scripture. Also, that’s been affirmed by almost all Classical commentators!Such as
      Al Tabari, Al Baghawi, Al Qurtubi, and Ibn Kathir. Also, before them, there were Abdullah ibn Abbas, Mujahid, and Al Suddi .

      2) “Gordon Nickel notes that when the terms ‘Gospel’ or ‘Torah’ are – spoken of by name, textual corruption is never alleged.”
      Exactly! Quran has its own perspective of what those books really are. Allah when talks about Torah and Injil, he talks about his definition of these books. …those books given to Moses and Jesus.

      Note: Ibn Taymiyyah, a polymath and Islamic scholar, has mentioned that being the scripture got corrupted, it doesn’t mean necessarily that (all) passages within Torah and Injil or (all) manuscript on face of this earth got corrupted.
      Also, It’s very odd that the jewish people in that time of the prophet didn’t even dare to bring the torah to confront the prophet peace be upon him! and again, the theory of (oral versions of the stories) doesn’t really stand with the fact that Quran shows a high familiarity with many (details) about these stories which are not even available for ordinary people among jews and christians themselves!

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    • Hi Omar, thank you for your thoughts. I find it unlikely that the Injil was lost everywhere else, we have no historical record of it, yet it happened to survive only in Arabia up until the time of Muhammad. Not impossible, but unlikely. It would also mean that Allah’s clear book and final revelation to mankind would forever confuse Christians, by referring to the Injil, leading Christians to think it’s referring to their Gospels, when actually it’s referring to a doctrine we have never had historical evidence for. Again, not impossible, but these two factors make this an unlikely understanding, in my mind.

      Hi Abdullah, thank you for your thoughts as well. I argued with above at least two commentators, there are perhaps even more, who think that most of vv. 75-79 is not about textual corruption, it’s about verbal corruption. This therefore makes me think that non-textual corruption, such as the writing of another book in v. 79, fits the context quite well. It’s not explicitly about the scripture – it’s about ‘the book’, not the Torah or the Gospel. And I gave an argument based on v. 78 about why I think this book is not the scripture.

      You mentioned Al Tabari – the quotes I gave show that Tabari’s view is contested. I don’t remember much about the other commentators. As for Ibn Abbas, there are different hadiths in Al Bukhari which potentially say conflicting things concerning textual variation. I am aware that one does not have the full isnad chain, but I’m not sure I accept the science of isnad criticism anyway. The Hadith you have in mind can also be tempted to fit with my interpretation, even though it is less natural.

      2) But to say that the Qur’an/Allah has its/his own definition of the former scripture means that Allah is thoroughly confusing his audience. Because this own definition is not clearly spelled out, the audience will assume that the terms Torah and Injil will refer to what they typically do in human discourse – i.e. the Torah and the Injil that they use in their communities.

      3) If it means that not all the copies got corrupted, then that means the true one should be preserved somewhere. This is especially true if (as many of the commentators you appeal to say) the corruption occurred in 7th century Arabia. And the copies we have from before then, and elsewhere in the world, confirm the scriptures we have today.

      4) We don’t know that the Jews didn’t bring the Torah to refute him. History doesn’t record everything. It’s quite possible that they did. Indeed, this might explain why (as I argued in previous comments) there could have been a shift, and Muhammad started saying that there was oral corruption.

      5) The familiarity with details – I’m not sure this exists. At least, the scholars I have read don’t think it’s close enough to posit textual similarities. Introductions to Islam often point out how the Qur’an rarely directly cites the formal scripture. Even if the quotes were similar, I see no reason why a lay Jewish or Christian person couldn’t know a similar amount of detail.

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    • Hi Richard, Sorry it will be long comment, and I’m sorry for my English mistakes already.

      1) ” I argued with above at least two commentators, there are perhaps even more, who think that most of vv. 75-79 is not about textual corruption, it’s about verbal corruption…………..79, fits the context quite well. It’s not explicitly about the scripture ”

      All commentators affirm that there’s a verbal corruption, yet it’s not the only one. The commentators whom I mentioned are the “giants” and some among the earliest.
      Also, 79 is quite explicit about the textual corruption. In fact, neither the verse itself nor its context say otherwise, and I can’t see otherwise.

      ===============
      2) ” You mentioned Al Tabari – the quotes I gave show that Tabari’s view is contested”

      No, It’s not contested. Al Tabari mentioned the verbal type, but it’s not the only one he mentioned.
      He said in verse 79 ” …The sever punishment will be for those who write the book – that we (HAD DESCRIBED IT ) …”
      [ Tafsir Al Tabari, Dar Al ma’arif, pp 274]

      More explicit , he said about Surah (5:13) ” They corrupt the words of Allah which is the Torah, they replace it, they write by their hands words different than that Allah had sent down to Moses ”
      [ Tafsir Al Tabari, Dar Al ma’arif, pp 129]

      ==============
      3) ” As for Ibn Abbas, there are different hadiths in Al Bukhari which potentially say conflicting things concerning textual variation. I am aware that one does not have the full isnad chain, but I’m not sure I accept the science of isnad criticism anyway. The Hadith you have in mind can also be tempted to fit with my interpretation, even though it is less natura”

      I’m not sure about this. However, hadith of Ibn Abbas is explicit that the corruption is a textual one.
      Hadith that David quoted doesn’t support his view even if we neglected that Isnad issue in that hadith.

      Regarding Hadith science, I’ll give you this example to know how vigorous it is in criticism before the modern criteria – to prove authenticity of a text – is even founded. Remember, we talk about more than 1000 years of establishment of this science.
      The Example is :
      If we found a manuscript of Mark’s gospel which is dated in the 1st century CE and it’s identical to what we have today.
      According to hadith science, it’s not authentic to be a good source of what Jesus’ teachings as long as we don’t know who Mark is in the first place.
      So you may imagine what the attitude of hadith scholars would be when the case of your gospels is far far away of the example I gave.
      ===============

      4) ” But to say that the Qur’an/Allah has its/his own definition of the former scripture means that Allah is thoroughly confusing his audience. Because this own definition is not clearly spelled out, the audience will assume that the terms Torah and Injil will refer to what they typically do in human discourse – i.e. the Torah and the Injil that they use in their communities.”

      No..not really.
      That’s because you have a false assumption that the people in the time of the prophet ﷺ were using a canonical book agreed upon by all.
      Also, you have to know these following facts simultaneously:-
      *Quran affirms that Torah and Injil as light and the guidance because Quran presents itself as all knowing of these books. Even it quoted from them.
      *Quran, also, affirms a fact that these books got corrupted ( Textually) and by (concealing/misrepresenting) although it not necessarily that each passage within them got this issue nor each manuscript.
      *Quran affirms that those who have the knowledge among jews and christians know these facts ( i.e about the prophetﷺ and Islam ) as they know their own children.

      You may read this verses from Quran as examples :

      Translation Surah (2:146)
      ” Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know [it].”

      Translation Surah (3:199)
      “And indeed, among the People of the Scripture are those who believe in Allah and what was revealed to you and what was revealed to them, [being] humbly submissive to Allah . They do not exchange the verses of Allah for a small price. Those will have their reward with their Lord. Indeed, Allah is swift in account.”

      Translation Surah (28:51-52)
      ” Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it – they are believers in it.
      And when it is recited to them, they say, “We have believed in it; indeed, it is the truth from our Lord. Indeed we were, [even] before it, Muslims [submitting to Allah ].”

      Translation Surah (26:197)
      “And has it not been a sign to them that it is recognized by the scholars of the Children of Israel?”

      And many other vesres….
      If there’s any confusion happened to the people , then you should blame those who know the truth , yet they hide it. Those Rabbis and Monks who were not trustworthy upon the words of Allah.

      =============
      5) “This is especially true if (as many of the commentators you appeal to say) the corruption occurred in 7th century Arabia. And the copies we have from before then, and elsewhere in the world, confirm the scriptures we have today.”

      I don’t understand why this necessity for ?
      If the corruption happened in the 1st century CE, can’t we still say that there’re some passages within your books are true? or some manuscripts ?
      Then again, Qurah has never mentioned anything about “canonical books”.
      Do you have Egerton Gospel, for example?
      Then, I really don’t trust that all copies are examined by unbiased method.Moreover, the criteria about why these specific books got chosen -if we assumed that they are preserved – are not clear.
      Did you know that Scholars of Islam such as Ibn Hazm and Ibn Taymiyah when they wrote books refuting christianity, they quoted verses which are not found in your bible today!?

      ============
      6) “We don’t know that the Jews didn’t bring the Torah to refute him. History doesn’t record everything. It’s quite possible that they did”

      I doubt that since Quran kept commanding them to not hide them, yet they kept hiding them..
      Also, even if they did, then our saying that the Quran makes it right about the textual corruption stands, and you should have said ” and Muhammad started saying that there was ((textual)) corruption” for it would be very odd that he saying that there’s “oral” while they brought the book front of him !? Don’t you think?
      In both cases, the oursaying of the textual corruption stands.

      ==========
      7) ” The familiarity with details….”
      Quran is the finest piece of the Arabic language, and it presents itself by a very special style of Arabic, so don’t think that Quran would quote line by line from the bible ,and as muslims we don’t believe that there’s any quotation to begin with, yet the awareness of some (details) are remarkable
      .Also, Quran gave the correction for some details

      For examples:
      * The story of creation the heaven and the earth without (weariness )
      * The role of Aaron when the children of Israel built the golden calf.
      * The guests of Abraham, and how they didn’t eat.
      * The righteous people the ones who will inherit the land in Psalms.
      *The story of Mary when she got pregnant.
      * The hand miracle of Moses was white without disease.
      Even the story of Jesus’ miracle about the ( Clay Birds ).

      It’s very odd to think that these details were orally circulated while most jews and christians were not aware of these details.

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  10. I think that Taha, Abdullah, Visitor, Ijaz, and Omar…not mention Shabir Aly and many others, have all made good points and strong arguments on this subject, which in light of the Qur’an and early Muslim sources, should have closed the matter. The Muslim position on this issue is easily defended as can be seen by the above comments from the Muslims on this site.

    One of Taha’s comments makes alot of basic sense and cuts through all of the scholarly banter, “why would the Qur’anic author, who thinks the original old testament is reliable *as you are arguing*, disagree with the Old Testament while knowing the original text? It doesn’t make sense. The only other explanation is that the Qur’anic author does not think the old testament is reliable.”

    In regard to Oral versions, Abdullah made a great point, “If the author of Quran just had the only (oral) versions of Biblical stories, would it not have been so odd that no one corrected him, especially those who converted to Islam such as Rabbi Abdullah bin Salam. (The same question in that debate 1:51:49) .”

    It is hard to believe that with everything we now know about the Bible through recent scholarship, anyone could argue that the Qur’an was not justified in saying that the Judeo-Christian scripture has been tampered with….seems like a foregone conclusion to me. If you want to argue the details, fine, but the central issue still stands – the scripture has been altered – period.

    I think Richard will have to suspend basic logic and to do a lot of cherry picking to get anywhere with this one. It seems like a lot of modern revisionism, but this is what we have come to expect from most western “scholarship” on Islam. As Richard himself said, he is really only just “speculating,” but other authors have already made the same speculations before, so what is original here? The arguments that he makes and refers to have all already been disproven by Muslim scholars. I can’t see how Richards old and tired theory holds any water.

    Not impressed Richard.

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    • Hi Ibn Issam, thank you for your thoughts 🙂

      You say it’s easily defended, and that they have strong arguments, but I would obviously disagree, and that is why I have written some of the things I have above. I have other counterarguments too, which I have not discussed on this website, due to time constraints.

      You say it doesn’t make sense the author of the Qur’an who thinks the OT is reliable, would disagree with the OT while knowing the OT text? As I have argued above (1) I am not sure he did know the OT text, but even if at some point he did (2) by that point, it was too late – he had already become known for appealing to the OT.

      Those who converted to Islam – (1) I’m not sure these figures are historical. Along with many Western scholars, I am unsure about the reliability of the Islamic tradition, outside of the Qur’an, and (2) I don’t know the particular individual to whom you refer, but it is possible that they aren’t that informed, or that they pick and choose bits of the OT to support the Muslim faith, as Muslims today do. Not that surprising to me.

      ‘ everything we now know about the Bible through recent scholarship, anyone could argue that the Qur’an was not justified in saying that the Judeo-Christian scripture has been tampered with’ – I’m not sure exactly what you mean by tampered with. I will just say that having studied the scriptures at university, I am pretty satisfied as to their broad reliability. There are some textual variants, sure, but I think both I and most scholars would say these are pretty minor. And I’m not convinced that the Qur’an itself is without variants.

      I wouldn’t say I’m cherry picking – I’m trying to interpret the Qur’an based upon all of the texts brought together. There might be one or two which are slightly harder to fit into my interpretive scheme, e.g. 2:79, but even that I don’t think is particularly hard. I think it’s much easier to fit these texts into my interpretive scheme, than it is to fit all of the texts I would raise into the scheme of someone like Shabir Ally.

      As for revisionism – yes, I believe our understanding of the Qur’an needs to be revised away from certain interpretations, by going back to the sources – ad fontes, the cry of the Reformation. As a Protestant, and as someone taught to do historical criticism in the West, I believe this is precisely what needs to be done.

      You say my arguments have been disproved by Muslim scholars – I have spent time reading the arguments of Muslims on this issue, and have found them unpersuasive. If there are any particular scholars or books or articles you recommend that might sway my opinion, please do let me know.

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    • Richard,
      It seems that when you are proven incorrect (by others not me), you just deny the facts and deny Islamic tradition, tafsir, science of isnad, existence of historical figures, 1400 years of general Muslim scholarship etc. (very western revisionist of you) and slightly adjust your position. Pretty standard stuff from Christians, nothing new here from you either. I guess Muslims just were incapable of understanding their own religion until you came along.

      In regard to reform, if the Protestants really wanted a reformation of the religion, they would have taken the opportunity to throw out all of the false and innovated doctrines of the Catholic church, as it would have made it much easier for people like you to defend Christian theology, but they didn’t…….so much for that, the Cry of the reformation should have been, “Status Quo!!”

      You said you have “spent time reading the arguments of Muslims on this issue, and have found them unpersuasive.” But apparently you didn’t read them closely enough as you also said prevously, “I confess I didn’t have time to check every reference. I focused on the earlier chapters, and I didn’t realise there was all this relevant material in ch. 7. My bad!” Come on Rich, I thought you were a big Scholar! pretty shoddy.

      In regard to tampering, I think you know exactly what I mean. For instance, the insertion of Comma Johaneaum by Erasmus, or would you call that a “minor variant.” Granted, that is an example that occurred after Prophet Muhammad, and Qur’an, but it is still tampering or alteration of the scriptural text. Another pre-Qur’an example from OT is the highly probable changing of the name of Ishmael for Isaac, in the story of the sacrifice in Genesis.

      Qur’an variants, another old and tired argument….do you have anything original??

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  11. “Those who converted to Islam – (1) I’m not sure these figures are historical. Along with many Western scholars, I am unsure about the reliability of the Islamic tradition, outside of the Qur’an”…. how convenient Richard…

    Thawban reported: I was sitting with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, when a rabbi among the Jews came and he said, “Peace be upon you, O Muhammad.” I pushed him until he almost fell back. The Jew said, “Why do you push me?” I said, “Why do you not say, O Messenger of Allah?” The Jew said, “We only call him by the name given to him by his family.” The Prophet said, “I have been named Muhammad by my family.” The Jew said, “I have come to ask you questions.” The Prophet said, “Will it benefit you if I tell you?” He said, “I will lend my ear to it.” The Prophet drew a line with a stick and he said, “You may ask.” The Jew said, “Where will people be when the earth is changed into another earth along with the heavens?” (14:48) The Prophet said, “They will be in darkness beside the bridge.” He said, “Who among the people will be the first to cross the bridge?” The Prophet said, “The poor among the refugees.” He said, “What will be the first meal of the people of Paradise?” The Prophet said, “The caul of a fish liver.” He said, “What is their food after this?” The Prophet said, “An ox that ate from the edges of Paradise will be slaughtered for them.” He said, “What will be their drink?” The Prophet said, “They will drink from a fountain named Salsabil.” (76:18) He said, “You have spoken the truth. I have come to ask you about something which no one on earth knows except a prophet or a few men.” The Prophet said, “Will it benefit you if I tell you?” He said, “I will lend my ear to it. I have come to ask about the child.” The Prophet said, “The fluid of a man is white and the fluid of a woman is yellow. If they have intercourse and the man’s fluid prevails over the woman’s fluid, the child will be male by the permission of Allah. If they have intercourse and the woman’s fluid prevails over the man’s fluid, the child will be female by the permission of Allah.” The Jew said, “You have spoken the truth. Indeed, you are a prophet.” The Prophet said, “He asked me about some things I did not know until Allah had just told me.”

    Source: Sahih Muslim 315

    The rabbi asked specific questions to determine whether Muhammad was a true prophet… where are these questions that the rabbi asked?.. what source of truth was the rabbi referring to to ascertain prophethood of Muhammad p?… certainly not the canonical torah!..

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    • Exactly Omar,
      It is unfortunate that Richard seems to deny basic facts whenever it is convenient for him.

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    • “Hi Omar, thank you for your thoughts. I find it unlikely that the Injil was lost everywhere else, we have no historical record of it, yet it happened to survive only in Arabia up until the time of Muhammad. Not impossible, but unlikely. It would also mean that Allah’s clear book and final revelation to mankind would forever confuse Christians, by referring to the Injil, leading Christians to think it’s referring to their Gospels, when actually it’s referring to a doctrine we have never had historical evidence for. Again, not impossible, but these two factors make this an unlikely understanding, in my mind.”

      never implied the injil was lost everywhere else!.. and keep in mind there was no printing press where everyone had a copy of the scriptures or the oral or logia gospel tradtions in their homes… i would argue that the injil existed.. some christians living in Arabia possessed these gospel logia traditions and saw the truth in Muhammad according to their scriptures…some christians only knew of the canonical gospels..there were certainly other competing scriptures or tradtions in mid 2nd century when the bible version of the gospels were canonized…the very religious christian elite i believe knew about these competing logia gospel or true injil traditionals ..the same logia gospel traditions that some christians followed and recognized Muhammad with in Arabia…of course these completing gospel logia or tradtions were set aside but found their way in the hands of some devoted Christians living in Arabia during the time of Muhammad p

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    • Narrated Anas:

      When ‘Abdullah bin Salam heard the arrival of the Prophet at Medina, he came to him and said, “I am going to ask you about three things which nobody knows except a prophet: What is the first portent of the Hour? What will be the first meal taken by the people of Paradise? Why does a child resemble its father, and why does it resemble its maternal uncle” Allah’s Apostle said, “Gabriel has just now told me of their answers.” ‘Abdullah said, “He (i.e. Gabriel), from amongst all the angels, is the enemy of the Jews.” Allah’s Apostle said, “The first portent of the Hour will be a fire that will bring together the people from the east to the west; the first meal of the people of Paradise will be Extra-lobe (caudate lobe) of fish-liver. As for the resemblance of the child to its parents: If a man has sexual intercourse with his wife and gets discharge first, the child will resemble the father, and if the woman gets discharge first, the child will resemble her.” On that ‘Abdullah bin Salam said, “I testify that you are the Apostle of Allah.” ‘Abdullah bin Salam further said, “O Allah’s Apostle! The Jews are liars, and if they should come to know about my conversion to Islam before you ask them (about me), they would tell a lie about me.” The Jews came to Allah’s Apostle and ‘Abdullah went inside the house. Allah’s Apostle asked (the Jews), “What kind of man is ‘Abdullah bin Salam amongst you?” They replied, “He is the most learned person amongst us, and the best amongst us, and the son of the best amongst us.” Allah’s Apostle said, “What do you think if he embraces Islam (will you do as he does)?” The Jews said, “May Allah save him from it.” Then ‘Abdullah bin Salam came out in front of them saying, “I testify that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah.” Thereupon they said, “He is the evilest among us, and the son of the evilest amongst us,” and continued talking badly of him.

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    • Abdullah ibn Salam known also as Al-Husayn ibn Salam or Abdullah ibn Salam :

      “When I heard of the appearance of the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) I began to make enquiries about his name, his genealogy, his characteristics, his time and place and I began to compare this information with what is contained in our books. From these enquiries, I became convinced about the authenticity of his prophethood and I affirmed the truth of his mission. However, I concealed my conclusions from the Jews. I held my tongue.

      Then came the day when the Prophet, peace be upon him, left Makkah and headed for Yathrib. When he reached Yathrib and stopped at Quba, a man came rushing into the city, calling out to people and announcing the arrival of the Prophet.

      At that moment, I was at the top of a palm tree doing some work. My aunt, Khalidah bint Al-Harith, was sitting under the tree. On hearing the news, I shouted: “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great! God is Great!)

      When my aunt heard me, she remonstrated with me: “May God frustrate you… By God, if you had heard that Moses was coming you would not have been more enthusiastic.”

      “Auntie, he is really, by God, the ‘brother’ of Moses and follows his religion. He was sent with the same mission as Moses.” She was silent for a while and then said: “Is he the Prophet about whom you spoke to us who would be sent to confirm the truth preached by previous (Prophets) and complete the message of his Lord?”

      “Yes,” I replied. Without any delay or hesitation, Abdullah went out to meet the Prophet. He saw crowds of people at his door. I moved about in the crowds until I reached close to him. The first words I heard him say were: ‘O people! Spread peace…Share food…Pray during the night while people sleep… and you will enter Paradise in peace…’ I looked at him closely. I scrutinized him and was convinced that his face was not that of an imposter. I went closer to him and made the declaration of faith that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. The Prophet turned to me and asked: ‘What is your name?’ ‘Al-Husayn ibn Salam,’ I replied. ‘Instead, it is (now) Abdullah ibn Salam,’ he said (giving me a new name). ‘Yes,’ I agreed. ‘Abdullah ibn Salam (it shall be). By Him who has sent you with the Truth, I do not wish to have another name after this day.’ I returned home and introduced Islam to my wife, my children and the rest of my household.”

      Which source of truth was Abdullah ibn Salam known also as Al-Husayn ibn Salam or Abdullah ibn Salam referring to?

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  12. A:

    Yusuf Ali: Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:”This is from Allah,” to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.

    assumption is that “then” is referring to the previous verse, but why can’t it refer to

    Yusuf Ali: Can ye (o ye men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you?- Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it.

    here we see

    that they

    KNOW the book

    LITERATE

    and KNOWINGLY pervert

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  13. I just want to point out that Gordon Nickel didn’t present some of commentaries’ view correctly about the corruption which seems the same problem that Richard got in his some points.
    I’m writing this because I just finished to listen of one of his lecture about the subject.
    Certainly the commentators wrote about the (verbal corruption), yet It’s *NOT* the only one.
    Nickel talked about Muqatil that he never mentioned the (textual corruption). That’s simply not true!
    The commentary of Muqatil is front of me right now. I dare him to read Muqatil ‘s sayings about ( Surah 2:79) & (Surah 3:87).
    Honestly, I’ve no idea why he preasneted a wrong idea. Was that done deliberately? I’m not sure.

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  14. RICHARD RESPOND. STOP HIDING.

    And these disturbing problems occur over and over and over. The same suspicious character of their claims arises when we come to John 1:18. Why do so many ancient manuscripts, and early Christian quotations, say “Son” rather than “God.” Again, do they really expect people to rest their faith upon such specious evidence? And why do Trinitarian apologists forget to tell anyone that the very important ancient manuscript Codex Sinaiticus does not read “God and Savior” a 2 Peter 1:1 but “Lord and Savior?”

    Why do Trinitarians translate the Hebrew word EL as “God” at Isaiah 9:6 but refuse to consistently do the same thing when the very same word refers to men, mountains and trees? Why do they translate this exact same word as “mighty” when it refers to King Nebuchadnezzar but refuse to do likewise at Isaiah 9:6? Moreover, why do they translate EL as “Mighty One” when the context makes it quite clear that the word is a reference to God himself in other places but refuse to translate it as “mighty” or “power” at Isaiah 9:6? How do they decide when they want the word EL to be translated as “mighty” or “power” or “strength” and when they want to translate the same word as “God”? And have they also not noticed that a name given to something in the Old Testament Scriptures is not necessarily identifying what that thing is? For example, shall we conclude that when Jerusalem is called “Yahweh Our Righteousness” that Jerusalem is being identified as God?

    And it certainly does not stop there. Trinitarian scholars admit the Greek grammar of Hebrews 1:8 allows a different translation than the one they prefer. And strangely enough, that different translation not only fits perfectly with the context, it makes sense with what immediately follows, “God, YOUR God, has anointed you.” Why then do they deny it? And how do they live with a translation that consequently results in God’s God anointing God so that God could make God above God’s peers? It’s absurd but it seems they don’t care.

    The same absurdity occurs at Zechariah 12:10 where the Trinitarian translation has Yahweh being pierced but the people mourning for someone else. Why don’t they bother to appreciate how the Apostle John himself cites the verse? But it seems they don’t really care if their translation is completely incoherent nor do they bother to tell anyone that many scholars insist the verse should be translated as “They shall look to me concerning the one they pierced and they will mourn for him.” No, they don’t tell you these facts nor do they tell you that there are alternative manuscript readings of this verse that do not read “me” but “him” (or “the one”).

    Under every single turned stone one finds the same thing. At John 1:1, their own Trinitarian scholars admit the second occurrence of the Greek word theos (“God/god”) means “divine” in a qualitative sense (what the Word was). Yet they translate the word as it if was the quantitative sense (who the Word was). Why do they resort to such things? And how is it that Trinitarians, who claim to know all about the Greek text in John 1:1, fail to see the problem with having two different definitions for the word “God” in the same breath where both instances are joined by a conjunction in the Greek! And why do these same Trinitarians inconsistently translate John 10:33 as “a man make yourself God” rather than “a man make yourself a god” especially of Jesus’ response in the next verse which demonstrates how he himself understood the Jewish charge? Why does this translation bear all the marks of a “made to fit” exercise?

    And why do Trinitarians ignore verses like John 12:45 and John 14:9 when they interpret John 20:28? Are such observations too inconvenient to their claims? Why do they make a convenient exception to the rules of Greek grammar concerning John 20:28? Why do they fail to see that John 20:28 is about seeing and believing and Jesus had taught his disciples what to think about He and His Father in terms of seeing and believing at John 14:9? And when they interpret John 10:30, why do they also ignore John 17:22 where Jesus prays his disciples will be one “just as we are one.” Is it because these obvious facts would completely nullify their claims?

    Why do Trinitarian apologists claim Jesus was omniscient, all-knowing, in spite of the fact that Jesus himself said ONLY one person, the Father knows the day and hour of his return? Why do they also fail to see that this means the third person of the Trinity doesn’t know either? And why do they cite verses where Jesus is said to “know all things” but hypocritically pass over 1 John 2:20,27 which say Christians “know all things?”

    Why do Trinitarian apologists isolate the words in Titus 2:13, “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,” in order to claim this verse appear as though Jesus is “our great God and Savior,” when they know very well the whole text actually refers to Jesus as “the glory of our God and Savior”? And why do they have such a deep desire to change the noun “glory” (doxa) into the adjective “glorious” in this verse. Is it not obvious their motives are to suit their claims? This is the “evidence” which people are supposed to stake their faith upon?

    At every turn one finds the same thing. And it gets even worse. Why do Trinitarian apologists so often misrepresent the testimony of the earliest Christians? Why do they suggestively imply that Justin Martyr was a Trinitarian just as they are, when Justin called Jesus “another god” who was subject to the “most true God”? And why do they suggest Irenaeus was a Trinitarian, just as they are, when Irenaeus repeatedly insisted the Father alone was the only true God? Why do they insist upon misrepresenting these early Christians? And why do they present Tertullian as a Trinitarian just as they are, when he insisted the Son was inferior to the Father and there was a time when the Son did not exist? Why all the dishonesty?

    Why do Trinitarians resort to unbridled eisegetical interpretations everywhere we look while screaming how wrong it is to do such things out of the other side of their mouth? For example, why do they imagine a three person God into Genesis 1:26 and Matthew 28:19 when there is absolutely no reason to do so? Why do they insist the “US” and “OUR” of Genesis 1:26 are the three persons of the Trinity without having any evidence whatsoever that they should indeed make such claims? Are we really supposed to just use our imaginations without regard for the facts?

    And why do Trinitarians find it so necessary to spill so much ink trying to justify their doctrine? Should not the identity of our God be just a little more simple than this? Did not Jesus come to show us the way to the true God? Who was that? The entire Bible is about God but we are supposed to believe that the true identity of God is not that easy to see? They resort to writing volumes of books to try and justify their doctrine. Why is it so necessary to write volumes upon volumes of books that try to justify the true identity of God? Did God really make it that difficult to figure out who he is? Why do Trinitarians indicate that God is like a puzzle that must be assembled? One God, assembly required. Isn’t that just a bit absurd? And do they not know that their definition of their God is a written man-made image of God rather than the Living God himself? It seems they do not.

    And why is it that Trinitarian apologists so often seem to be denying the above facts are significant? Is it because they need to water down inconvenient facts? And why do they deny all the facts which indicate their doctrine is completely wrong? For example, why do they conveniently deny “the Lord” of 2 Corinthians 3:17 is Jesus even though the context demands it is Jesus? Is it because this verse proves their doctrine is simply wrong? And why have so many contrivances been designed to avoid the implications of evidence which indicates their doctrine is wrong? Why do they find it necessary to do such things? And why do those contrivances fall apart under the scrutiny of intelligent minds?

    These are but a few examples of the myriads of problems with their claims. The suspicious character of Trinitarian claims is found everywhere one looks. They go to great lengths to try and make their claims “sound good” and “appear correct” but when an honest and reasonable person looks just a little closer, it become quickly obvious that things are not what they were made to appear. Why? If their claims have any veracity whatsoever, why do they have so many highly suspicious problems attached to them? Why do they need to work so hard to justify their claims? And why do they need to make so many excuses for themselves. Why are these problems associated with every single claim they make?

    Any honest and rational person will realize that when someone makes a host of claims, and every single one of them is highly questionable, that something is wrong, very wrong. And all this is just what anyone can find on the surface of things if he actually looks. When a person digs even deeper, there he will find the foundations of corruption.

    Jesus came to show us the way to the only true God, the Living God, his God. Eternal life is to know the only true God, his God. There is nothing complicated about it at all. Why it is not clear to people that men have corrupted this truth to lead people away from the true and living God and to another God of their own making?

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Trackbacks

  1. A Review of ‘The Bible in Arabic’, by Sidney H. Griffith – Blogging Theology
  2. ‘[T]hey kill and are killed’ for Paradise -‘a true promise…in the…Gospel’? – Blogging Theology

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