Is the Bible textually corrupt? Muslims say yes, the Qur’an says no!

Sharing the Gospel with our Muslim neighbors and friends can be a challenge which at times seems almost insurmountable. This seeming insurmountability can take place rather quickly in the conversation when the allegation/charge of textual corruption of the Bible is brought ‘front and center’ into the conversation by our Muslim friends. If we, as Christians, are not prepared to respond, this baseless charge can bring the discussion to a grinding halt, or an impasse. The apostle Peter stated that we are to “always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks us for the reason of the hope that is in us,” (1 Pet. 3:15) and the defense of the veracity, truthfulness and reliability of the New Testament is central to our defense. In order to mount an effective defense (and offense) to this issue, some background as to why it is made will be helpful in understanding how to deconstruct and refute it.

In order to support their claim that the Qur’an is the inspired word of God, superseding all previous revelations, Muslims sustain an attack upon all competing claims. For the most part their efforts are directed against their chief rival, the Bible. There accusations fall into two basic categories: first, the text of Scripture has been changed or forged; second, doctrinal mistakes have crept into Christian teaching, such as the belief in the incarnation of Christ, the trinity of the Godhead, and the doctrine of original sin.

shabir-debate2These Islamic views about the Bible are critically flawed. One evidence is the internal inconsistency within the Muslim view of Scripture itself. Another is that it is contrary to the factual evidence. There is serious tension in the Islamic rejection of the authenticity of the current New Testament. This tension can be focused by the following teaching from the Qur’an:

1. The original New Testament (“Gospel”) is a revelation of God. (Surah 5:46, 67, 69, 71)
2. Jesus was a prophet and his words should be believed by Muslims (Surah 4:171; 5:78). As the Muslim scholar Mufassir notes, “Muslims believe all prophets to be truthful and because they are commissioned in the service o humanity by Almighty God (Allah).
3. Christians were obligated to accept the New Testament of Muhammad’s day (seventh century A. D., Surah 10:94).[1]

 

Point #3 is of critical importance in dismantling the charge of biblical corruption. The Qur’an/Muslims claim that the Bible is “the Word of God” (Surah 2:75). They also insist that God’s words cannot be altered or changed. But, as C. G. Pfander points out, “if both these statements are correct…then it follows that the Bible has not been changed and corrupted either before or since Muhammad’s time.” Islamic teaching insists that the Bible has been corrupted, thus, the contradiction. As we begin the discussion, we need to be clear that “we do not in any way whatever rely upon the Qur’an to prove our Scriptures for us. What we are doing is quite a different thing. We are endeavouring to show Muslims that they, as believers in the Qur’an, are bound to accept what it says about the Jewish and the Christian Books.”[2]

The point that, ‘God’s words cannot be altered or changed,’ is stated repeatedly in the Qur’an. The following are some of the key ayahs (verses) confirming the claim:

Surah 10:64 states, “For them are Glad Tidings, in the life of the Present and in the Hereafter: no change can there be in the Words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme Triumph.”
Surah 6:34: Rejected were the apostles before thee: with patience and constancy they bore their rejection and their wrongs, until Our aid did reach them: there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah. Already hast thou received some account of those apostles.
Surah 2:136: Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
Surah 4:136: O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and the scripture which He hath sent to His Messenger and the scripture which He sent to those before (him). Any who denieth Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messenger., and the Day of Judgment, hath gone far, far astray.
Surah 6:115—The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfillment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all.
Surah 18:27—And recite what has been revealed to you of the Book of your Lord, there is none who can alter His words; and you shall not find any refuge besides Him.The Qur’an then advises Muhammad to consult the People of the Book (Jews and Christians—Ahl al-Kitab) if he is in doubt of the revelation he has received, “If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt.”

 
Having established the Qur’an’s claim that the words of God cannot be altered, we move on to the Quranic instruction to the Christians and Jews, which obligates them to accept and ‘find guidance’ in the New Testament (and Torah) that existed in Muhammad’s day. This along with Allah’s instruction to Muhammad to also consult the Gospel and Torah, as well as the Christians and Jews who believed and were given “the Books,” makes for a strong case as too the truthfulness and purity of the Gospel and Torah of Muhammad’s day.

Surah 6:154-157: Then We gave Moses the Book complete as to whatever is excellent, and explaining all things in detail, and a guide and a mercy, that they might believe in the meeting with their Lord. And this (the Qur’an) is a Book which We have revealed, blessed: so follow it and be righteous, that you may receive mercy: lest you should say, `The Book was sent down to two peoples before us, and for our part, we remained unacquainted with all that they learned by assiduous study;’ or lest you should say: `If the Book (Torah and Gospel) had only been sent down to us, we should have followed its guidance better than they.’
Surah 46:29-30: When the (reading) was finished they returned to their people as warners. They said, `O our people! we have heard a Book revealed after Moses attesting to (the truth of) that which IS between his (its) hands (the Torah) – guiding to the truth and to a straight path.’
Surah 2:91: When it is said to them, `Believe in what God has sent down,’ they say, `We believe in what was sent down to us (the Torah)‘: yet they reject all besides, even if it be truth attesting to (the truth of) what IS WITH THEM (the Torah)…
Surah 3:3: It is He (God) who sent down to thee the Book in truth, attesting to (the truth of) what IS between its (his) hands (the Bible), and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel before this as a guide to mankind.
Surah 4:162-163: But those of them (the Jews) that are grounded in knowledge, and the believers, BELIEVE in that which has been revealed to you (Muhammad) and in that which has been revealed before you… We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the prophets after him, and We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David we gave the Psalms.
Surah 9:111: God has bought from the believers their selves and their wealth, and for them is the garden (of Paradise) if they fight in the ways of God: and whether they kill or are killed, the promise of God IS true in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an, and who is more faithful to his promise than God?
Surah 20:133: They (the Meccans) say, `Why does he not bring us a sign from his Lord?’ What! Has not a clear sign come to them in what IS in the former pages (al-suhuf al-aulla )?”
(According to Baidawi’s commentary on this verse – The “former pages” refers to “the Torah and the Gospel and all the divine books.”)
Surah 10:94: If you (Muhammad) are in doubt regarding that which We have revealed to thee, ASK those who READ the book from before you…
Surah 16:43-44: And We have not sent before you (Muhammad) other than men to whom we granted revelation. And (all of you) ASK the people of the (Scripture) Message if you don’t know.
Surah 17:101: To Moses We gave nine clear signs. ASK (O Muhammad) the Children of Israel

 
Dr. William Campbell notes:

According to Baidawi, Jelaleddin, and Yusuf Ali, “ask those of our apostles whom we sent before thee” means enquire of their people – those learned in their writings and doctrines. Therefore those writings and doctrines were clearly available in Muhammad’s time.[3]

 
The reading of “the Book from before thee,” is in reference to the Taurat (Torah) given to the Jews—“But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) law before them?– therein is the (plain) command of Allah…” is the bible corrupt(Surah 5:43)

Sura 53:36: “Nay is he not acquainted with what IS IN THE BOOKS OF MOSES.”
Sura 5:46: “But why do they (the Jews) come to thee for decision, when they have the Torah in which IS the command of God.”

 
The following is an authoritative hadith that confirms that the Old Testament/Torah/Taurat that we have today was in existence and in use during the time of Muhammad, and as such, the ‘revelation’ given to Muhammad which we now have in the Qur’an:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar:
A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) to Quff. So he visited them in their school.
They said: Abul Qasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) who sat on it and said: Bring the Torah. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee.
He then said: Bring me one who is learned among you. Then a young man was brought. The transmitter then mentioned the rest of the tradition of stoning similar to the one transmitted by Malik from Nafi’ (No. 4431).” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4434)

 
In Surah 5, the Christians, “people of the Gospel,” are told to judge by what had been revealed therein:

Surah 5:46-48; 68, 69:

46. And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.
47. Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel.
48. To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee…
68. Say: “O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord…”
69. Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

These ayahs were quoted by Muhammad during the time period of 609 to 632AD, and as such, they were referring to the exact same New and Old Testaments that we possess today. (Almost all Muslim scholars argue that the original Old Testament was distorted/corrupted. However, like the New Testament, the ancient Dead Sea Manuscripts of the Old Testament reveal that the Old Testament today is substantially the same as the one in the time of Christ, over 600 years before Muhammad.) Therefore, since the Qur’an urges the Jews in Muhammad’s day to accept God’s revelation in the Law (10:94), and since the Jewish OT is substantially the same today as it was in Muhammad’s day, then Muslims should accept that bold sacrifices for sins were commanded by God.Thus, the Qur’an is not referring to scripture that Jews and Christians possessed in the past, but now are lost. Rather, the Torah given to Moses, and the New Testament/Gospels concerning Jesus, is the scripture that is with them (the Christians and Jews) and in their possession at the time of Muhammad. This is historically verified by copies such as the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, both dated to the 4th century AD, as well as Codex Alexandrinus, 5th century AD. Each of these which contains both the Old and New Testaments, and includes the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts as we have them in our present day Bibles. These manuscripts prove conclusively that the only scriptures in the hands of the Church at least two hundred years prior to Muhammad’s time were the Old and New Testaments that we have in our hands today. 

After reading the Quranic passages above, we must then put forth the following propositions to our Muslim friends for response:

If God couldn’t protect His scripture, then He is inept and not all powerful.
If He wouldn’t protect it, He is immoral and/or a liar, because He promised to protect it and didn’t.

 
This brings us to the following conclusion:

1) The Qur’an says the words of God cannot be
changed or corrupted.
2) The Qur’an says the Bible is the Word of God.
3) Therefore, on the Qur’an’s authority, the Bible
could not have been changed or corrupted, as
many Muslims claim, and is therefore, the Word of God.

 
When I hear the charge of textual corruption being leveled against the Bible (both the Old & New Testament), I simply ask my Muslim friend the following question: “If the Bible has been corrupted, please show me where, when, how, and by whom?” This is usually sufficient to cause a long pause, after which they simply restate the charge without any proof to offer. Most Muslims have been taught this response by their Imam’s and leaders along with the traditions passed down to them via the hadiths, and thereby accept this claim on ‘blind faith’ with no argument/facts to substantiate the claim. As Muslim scholar and apologist Ahmed Deedat explains, “…the Muslim believes this authoritative statement as the veritable Word of God. And as such, he asks no questions, and he demands no proof. He says, “There are the words of my lord: I believe, and I affirm.”

One response I have used on occasion is, “If the Bible is true, then the Qur’an is false. If the Bible is false, then the Qur’an is still false, because it says that the Bible is true.” (A comparison of Surah 4:157-denial of the crucifixion-with the Gospels’ eyewitness crucifixion accounts [along with extra-biblical sources] proves the point of contradiction) This usually places my Muslim counterpart square in the middle of a dilemma of contradiction that has no solution. (See video below) By ‘leveraging’ the Qur’an’s ‘truth claims,’ 1) God’s words cannot be altered or changed, and 2) the Bible [of Muhammad’s day] was/is the Word of God, the Qur’an’s internal inconsistency is exposed and the charge of biblical textual corruption is soundly refuted. The Muslim is soon brought to a crossroads of decision–either the charge is true, which cannot be proven by the Qur’an, or it is false, which can be proven by the Qur’an–there is no middle road.

As H. W. Stanton states:

It remains one of the outstanding anomalies of history that the religious genius of Arabia (Muhammad), who staked the truth of his message on the witness of previous Scriptures, should have utterly neglected to verify their contents and should have successfully inspired his followers through the ages to a like neglect.[4]

 
It is interesting to note that Ibn Ishaq, the author of what is considered the authoritative biography of the life of Muhammad, quotes the Gospel of John as the very same gospel given to Jesus:

“Among the things which have reached me about what Jesus the Son of Mary stated in the Gospel which he received from God for the followers of the Gospel, in applying a term to describe the apostle of God, is the following. It is extracted FROM WHAT JOHN THE APOSTLE SET DOWN FOR THEM WHEN HE WROTE THE GOSPEL FOR THEM FROM THE TESTAMENT OF JESUS SON OF MARY: ‘He that hateth me hateth the Lord. And if I had not done in their presence works which none other before me did, they had not sin: but from now they are puffed up with pride and think that they will overcome me and also the Lord. But the word that is in the law must be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without a cause’ (i.e. without reason). But when the Comforter has come whom God will send to you from the Lord’s presence, and the spirit of truth which will have gone forth from the Lord’s presence he (shall bear) witness of me and ye also, because ye have been with me from the beginning. I have spoken unto you about this that ye should not be in doubt. (Ishaq, Life Of Muhammad, trans. Alfred Guillaume, pp. 103-104)

 
The preceding Gospel citation is taken from John 15:23-16:1. ISHAQ NEVER ONCE HINTS THAT THIS PARTICUALR GOSPEL IS INAUTHENTIC OR CORRUPT.

In the first four centuries after Muhammad (600 – 1000 AD) no Muslim theologian seriously contended that the Gospel texts were not authentic. They might accuse Christians of giving a wrong interpretation to the words; they would not dispute the words themselves. As studies of Muslim apologetics have shown it was only with Ibn-Khazem who died at Cordoba in 1064, that the charge of falsification was born. Many of the great Muslim thinkers have, indeed, accepted the authenticity of the New Testament text. Listing the names of these men seems a fitting conclusion to this article. Their testimony proves that Christian-Muslim dialogue need not for ever be stymied by the allegation of biblical corruption introduced by Ibn-Khazem. Two great historians, Al-Mas’udi (died 956) and Ibn-Khaldun (died 1406), held the authenticity of the Gospel text. Four well-known theologians agreed with this: Ali at-Tabari (died 855), Qasim al-Khasani (died 860), ‘Amr al-Ghakhiz (died 869) and, last but not least, the famous Al-Ghazzali (died 1111). Their view is shared by Abu Ali Husain Ibn Sina, who is known in the West as Avicenna (died 1037). Bukhari (died 870), who acquired a great name by his collection of early traditions, quoted the Qur’an itself (Sura 3:72,78) to prove that the text of the Bible was not falsified. Finally, Muhammad Abduh Sayyid Ahmad Khan, a religious and social reformer of modem times (died 1905), accepted the findings of modern science. He said:

As far as the text of the Bible is concerned. it has not been altered … No attempt was made to present a diverging text as the authentic one.[5]

 
References:

[1] Norman L. Geisler & Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam-The Crescent in the Light of the Cross, Baker Books, 2002, pgs. 213, 217
[2] C. G. Pfander, The Mizanu’l Haqq, Balance of Truth, Indo-Asiatic Publishers, 1910
[3] William Campbell, The Qur’an and the Bible in the Light of History, Science, Middle East Resources 1992, p. 39
[4] H. W. Stanton, The Teachings of the Qur’an, New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1969
[5] Hans Wijngaards, Can we trust the Gospels?, A letter to my Muslim brothers, 1985, found, here

For a comprehensive overview of the topic, please see:

The Quranic Witness to Biblical Authority/The Quran on the Authority and Integrity of the Biblical Text, Part 2/The Quran on Biblical Authority Revisited, Part 3-by Sam Shamoun, here

The Mizanu’l Haqq, Balance of Truth-by C. G. Pfander and W. St. Clair Tisdall, here

Other resources found at this site:

Historicity of the Crucifixion & the Law of Non-contradiction-by Lane, here

The question: Why was Jesus crucified? ‘What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?’-Matt. 22:42-by Lane, here

The Quran, the Bible, and the Islamic Dilemma

Is The Bible Corrupted? – Jay Smith

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