Mr. Heaster’s Response Speech
I must admit when I read my colleague’s opening statement, I was somewhat taken by surprise. The statement promised at the outset to show “proof that the majority of the Bible is indeed the word of God” and “proof that will clear up issues that for so long have been debated and disputed among Christians and non-Christians alike”. I was disappointed to then go on to read a treatise on the number 19 and how significant it appears to be for the Qur’an. NO passages were quoted from the manuscripts of the Bible to try and show the Bible has been altered. Instead, a numerology study on number 19 in the Qur’an! So I ask: where is the concrete evidence that the text of the Bible has been altered? For this debate requires such concrete evidence.
As mentioned in my opening statement, there were many many variant readings in the Qur'an text - Muhammad was illiterate and what he said was written down by various people until Caliph Uthman ordered all the variant copies of the Qur’an to be destroyed, apart from that compiled by Zaid-ibn-Thabit. If by mentioning all the strings of words/letters/phrases that add to the number 19 in the Qur’an it was to convince readers that this is the only piece of literature that displays such patterns, then the writer is mistaken. Other writings have similar features; the Bible has patterns associated with the number 7, for example, and there are a lot of features of nature that have the number 7 as their pattern. The main question I would ask my colleague is, how does a pattern of the number 19 (or any number in fact!) really transform lives, today, in practice?
The argument that gematria ‘proves’ the Qur’an to be God’s word runs into major problems in that amazing patterns of gematria can be discerned in much other literature which flatly contradicts the Qur’an. This was a common literary device used by many writers and scribes in Babylon and Egypt, but especially was it widespread amongst the Jewish rabbinical writings. In the Qumran literature, as well as many of the Jewish Apocryphal writings, the Talmud and the Mishnah, there are similar features of gematria to those claimed for the Qur'an. See D.S.Russel, The Method And Message Of Jewish Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1964) p. 127. Seeing Mohamad was illiterate and lived amongst Jews, it is highly likely that his early scribes were Jews, and it is not surprising that they built in such patterns. The Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh regularly employs features based around the number 7 [see John J. Davis, Biblical Numerology , Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 p. 107). Ugaritic literature is replete with these phenomena. See Cyrus Gordon, Ugaritic Literature (Rome: P.B.I., 1949) p. 27. It has been shown that Sargon II built the wall at Khorsabad according to the numerical value and implications of his name (Vincent Hopper, NumberSymbolism, New York: Columbia, 1938 p. 62).