4-2-9 Christian Criticisms Of Islam Answered
The Moslem Response: Second Speech
One advantage of discussions like this, is the opportunity to identify and hopefully free ourselves of misconceptions we may have about the faith of others. Therefore I would like to start by clearing up a some misconceptions about Islam that my debate companion shares.
1: “There are flat contradictions between the Bible and the Qur'an, especially relating to the records of the crucifixion of Jesus.”
The Qur’an agrees with and proves most events surrounding Jesus, including the virgin birth, the miracles, and the fact that his body was crucified. It does not agree however with the interpretation of those events, in raising Jesus to the same level as God, or even suggesting he is God.
2: “Muhammad was illiterate.”
While many Muslims believe that he was illiterate, Muhammad was a merchant, and as such he had to master the alphabet. The suggestion that Muhammad was illiterate opposes all the Quranic accounts of Muhammad. This misconception is based on an attempt to attribute a ‘miraculous aspect’ of the revelation of the Qur’an, by those who failed to understand that the revelation of Qur’an was a miracle in its own right.
3: “There were many many variant readings in the Qur'an text….and what he said was written down by various people .. If this had been done to the Bible, one would be left wondering whether we have the original text, and whether it hadn't been tampered with. “
It is very interesting that you choose to phrase yourself exactly this way, as what you are describing is actually exactly what happened to the New Testament. There were so many variant readings of the Gospel of Jesus by the 3rd century, that Constantine arranged the first ecumenical council in 325 A.D, during which 318 of the 1800 Bishops met to settle the Arian dispute regarding the identity of Christ. The trinity was accepted as the official stand, and all other beliefs and versions of the Gospels were banned.
The New Testament was definitely written down by various people. It certainly wasn’t written down by Jesus, or his disciples, unlike the original Qur’an, which was written by Muhammad. From the Qur’an we learn that people said about the revelations that Muhammad preached, “Tales from the past that he wrote down; they were dictated to him day and night." (25:5)
The deviation between the original Qur’an and the one put together by the committee of scribes appointed to make copies of the Qur’an, was the adding of two verses at the end of Sura 9 to honor the prophet. The adding of these two verses caused a division among the early Muslims, which resulted in a war. Even though the version with these two verses included were conveyed to the generations that followed, they have always been regarded as very suspect. One reason for this suspicion is the fact that they are reported to be Mekkan verses (i.e. revealed in Mekka), although the chapter (Sura) is a Medinan Sura (i.e. revealed after the prophet migrated to Medina). Another reason is the fact that every single verse in the Qur’an was verified by a multiplicity of witnesses except the last two verses of Sura 9; they were found only with Khuzeimah Ibn Thaabet Al-Ansaary. This exception was justified with inventing a Hadith (story attributed to the prophet) stating that Khuzeimah’s testimony equals that of two men! The miracle of the Qur’an clearly exposes these two verses as false.
4: “Muslim claims about the Bible's errancy are so wildly exaggerated. Ahmed Deedat in Is The Bible God's Word? claims there are 50,000 errors in it- 40 / page! No published book would have 40 errors / page. Why such gross exaggeration? Has he ever actually listed them all…? “
I share you belief that the claim of 50.000 errors is wildly exaggerated. I find your reaction to this claim very interesting however. If the Bible is indeed the absolute unaltered word of God in your mind, then the words you want to use here is not “wildly exaggerated” and “a gross exaggeration” but rather “completely false.” You also wrote that “ The Dead Sea Scrolls…reveal how the texts have lost virtually nothing” Virtually nothing is one thing. Absolutely nothing is another.
5: “Islam claims the original Old and New Testament Scriptures were lost long ago. And yet the Qur'an says that they were in existence in the first century and at the time of Muhammad.”
The Old Testament and the New Testament have been in existence ever since they were revealed. The truth can be found in the representations of them today, as can the blatant attempts to inject in them words to promote the worship of other than God.
6: If the New Testament is so hopelessly corrupt, as Islam claims, then where is the true record of His words? “ “Why does the Qur'an tell Jews and Christians to follow the precepts of their respective Scriptures, speaking of them with great reverence - if they are so utterly corrupted? “
There is a big difference between something being “utterly or hopelessly corrupted” and “containing some discrepancies.” The absolute majority of the Biblical message is intact.
The true record of Jesus words are imbedded in the Bible, and completely unaltered in the Qur’an. The hearts of those guided by God will recognize those words, as well as recognize the words never spoken by Jesus, as they are not said in the true ‘spirit’, as you put it.
The few manipulations are easily detectable once we realize their root cause, i.e. promotion of idol worship. For the Christians that have sensed these things relief has arrived. Through the miracle (http://www.submission.org/miracle/) of the Qur’an they will find solid confirmation of their justified suspicions, and experience a renewed sense of discovering the actual words spoken by Jesus.
7: “Their presupposition that the Bible must be wrong because it disproves the Qur'an drives them to make assumptions and claims without evidence. “
As I’ve clearly demonstrated in my opening statement, this is as far from the truth as it can be. God has given ALL of us a proof, not only of the Qur’an, but also of the authenticity of the original Old and New Testament. And as I have already stated, most of the Bible is not wrong. Again, the incorrect areas are easily detected once we understand their root cause.
“If the true, inspired Old and New Testaments existed at the time of Muhammad and were read by " the people of the book" [i.e. Jews and Christians]…then this would mean that from the first up to at least the seventh centuries there were both false and true Old and New Testaments circulating.”
The first writings to circulate among early Christians were Paul’s letters. In fact, much of what we recognize today as the basic teachings of Christianity came to us through Paul, although he never met Jesus. He was the major missionary to the gentiles in the years immediately following the crucifixion.
He spread his version of the message by writing letters to different congregations, often trying to solve localized problems, or to consolidate the faithful into one cohesive congregation, rather than to document and spread the teachings of Jesus. There are many indications in Paul's letters that there were powerful and authoritative opponents to his teachings. Paul wrote that these opponents were teaching a " gospel other than the gospel you accepted" and preaching about " another Jesus:
“…when someone comes preaching another Jesus than the one we preached, or when you receive a different spirit than the one you have received, or a gospel other than the gospel you accepted, you seem to endure it quite well. I consider myself inferior to the " super-apostles" in nothing. [2 Corinthians 11:3-5]
Although he does not question the authority of those he refers to as the `super-apostles', he does try to match their qualifications with his own: " Since many are bragging about their human distinctions, I too will boast" (2 Cor. 11:18).
One thing we do know is that the differences among the early members of the church were deep and divisive. Paul's letter to the Galatians makes that clear. Scathingly, Paul exhorts his readers to stick to the gospel he had delivered to them: ”I directly withstood him, because he was clearly in the wrong. He had been taking his meals with the Gentiles before others came who were from James. But when they arrived he drew back to avoid trouble with those who were circumcised. The rest of the Jews joined in his dissembling, till even Barnabas was swept away by their pretense. As soon as I observed that they were not being straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I had this to say to Cephas in the presence of all: " If you who are a Jew are living according to Gentile ways rather than Jewish, by what logic do you force the Gentiles to adopt Jewish ways?" [Galatians 2:6-14]
We see here that initially it was James, Cephas and John who recognized Paul's authority. What about the other Jerusalem apostles? Were they the important and prominent ones who wanted Paul to add to his teachings? If not, why were they not mentioned? And what was he supposed to add? It is logical that these opponents were original apostles, and that they wanted him to preach the following of Mosaic law.
Later, in Antioch, even Cephas had a run-in with Paul over the practice of Mosaic law. Paul accuses him and the other Jews of dissembling, and not being straightforward about the truth of the gospel and of wanting to force the Gentiles to accept Mosaic law. If Paul attacked even his supporters among the Jerusalem apostles, it is inevitable that he was at odds with them as a group.
Given the extremely strong prohibition of idol worship in any form, which is at the base of Mosaic law, it is almost certain that any tendency to deify Jesus would have been strongly resisted by the Jerusalem apostles. This could well have been the basic cause of the rift between Paul and the original apostles.
“Extra-Biblical history confirms that the Roman world was indeed overrun by the Christian preaching of the resurrected Jesus. Why did they do this?…. The Bible must be the unaltered word of God for these things to all be true.”
The Roman world, that accepted the concept of Trinity during the Nicaea conference in 325, had gone through several rulers in a period of 3 years. Constantine was looking for something to unite his kingdom. Accepting the concept of a Christian God that had a son did not differ too much from the way the Romans already perceived god-hood, already worshipping several gods with sons and daughters. Those that opposed the deification of Jesus this way at that time were banished or killed.
History has shown us that people can move in amazing unison, guided by mad leaders. If we consider this a proof for truth, then how are we to consider Hitler? Regardless of how forceful a majority is, or how persuasive and charismatic their leader is, they can never be considered righteous as long as their message is not rooted in the very first commandment in all scriptures: “There is no god except the One God”.
It is interesting to note that almost all uncommon men at the time Jesus were considered to be celestially begotten somehow. We can see direct connections between heathen mythology and the beliefs adopted by the Christian Church. The mythologists had gods for everything. In Christianity today there are saints for everything. The pantheon had been filled with the statues of god, and the Church became filled with statues of saints.
“If the inspired Scriptures can provide such totality of knowledge, then there is no need for another book to show us the truth about God. “
What we need is guidance to achieve salvation. That guidance and that salvation has been available ever since the first human being walked the earth, long before the Old, the New and the Final Testament. Totality of knowledge will never be given to or achieved by anyone except God.
God has promised us that He will increase our knowledge and that He will continue to show us His signs in the horizon and within ourselves until we realize that God is speaking to us, yet He tells us that “the knowledge given to you is minute.”
“Muslims can give no dates, no places, no names, responsible for the changing of the Bible texts which they assume happened. “
If providing dates, places, actual names for those responsible for writing the passages is a criteria for accepting something as false, then it should be an equally important criteria for accepting something as true. This however is not the case, since I agree that there are other factors which make us believe in the message, including the ‘spirit of the message’ as you mentioned, and not when and how the ink hit the paper.
Just because something is old doesn’t mean that it has to change. Changes happen for a reason. Beyond unintentional and uncontrollable changes, they are meant to fill a purpose, to achieve a certain result. Once this result is achieved, it is in the interest of those protecting that result, to maintain their work. Thus, it is to be expected that there are very old samples of the Bible that agree with the Biblical versions presented today.
A scripture being old is not an absolute argument that it was changed. A scripture no longer represented in its original languages, containing contradictions in its most fundamental message, is however a reasonable reason to suspect manipulation. If raising quantity is an issue of proving authenticity, then where is the trust in the “spirit” of the message, and where is the “quoting the Bible itself as proof of its authority,” as you mentioned.
If something being old or available in large numbers, are used in determining the authenticity of a message, then people immediately after the departure of Jesus would have been justified in rejecting his message.
For those that feel that admitting to one single discrepancy in the Bible equals having to throw it all out the window, a serious and open-minded discussion becomes very difficult. Regardless of the discrepancies in the Bible, it is still full of beautiful words of wisdom and guidance from God. Throwing out the entire Bible due to the few discrepancies would be to throw the baby out with the bath water.
There is no doubt that God’s revelations are products of His inspiration to those chosen to reveal His words to us. This has nothing to do with the integrity and belief, or lack thereof, of those who took it upon themselves to reproduce and translate God’s message after the fact. As you yourself so well express:
“And this question must afflict every intellectually honest Muslim. Where is the evidence that God inspired Caliph Uthman to choose Zaid-ibn-Thabit’s version? “
I must conclude that you are willing to apply the same question for all the versions of the Gospels available to us today. Where is the evidence that God inspired Paul? Where is the evidence that God inspired the writers of the different versions of the Gospel? Where is the evidence that Constantine choose the correct versions to support?
There is a group of Christian scholars called the “Jesus Seminar” which have embarked on the bold journey of seriously investigating these issues. From their site I quote:
“We are about to embark on a momentous enterprise. We are going to inquire simply, rigorously after the voice of Jesus, after what he really said. In this process, we will be asking a question that borders the sacred, that even abuts blasphemy, for many in our society…..Our basic plan is simple. We intend to examine every fragment of the traditions attached to the name of Jesus …”