In my recent discussion with Dr. Sayyed, his presentation was firmly based on two central biases. First, that God, in fact, cannot preserve His own revelation, and second, that the Prophets of the Old Testament and New Testament (Isaiah, David, Jesus) were not truthful concerning God’s decrees. In this article, I will give feedback on his presentation. I will mirror Dr Sayyed’s claims and apply the same to the central context of the Quran to show that his own position undermines his own central beliefs.
“The Bible is a very human book but the Christians believe that it is God’s Word.”
Dr Sayyed basically asserts that because the Bible was authored by human authors and it accounts the history of man, it cannot be the Word of God. Christians will say that the Bible is essentially an inspired book including the narratives of human history, providing a historical account of God’s interaction with them. Does this make the Judeo-Christian scriptures a purely ‘human’ book? Absolutely not, we can see quite clearly that the Bible is authoritative and as I have shown in the previous article, it stands by its own authority speaking about the revealed will of God and His demands on creation. Essentially, the very central Scriptures do not just reveal the will and commands of God but reveals the very essential nature and heart of God towards all peoples. For the Christian what constitutes as God’s primary revelation is the Word of which is ultimately dependent on His own self-disclosure and preservation. The Westminster Confession of Faith states in Chapter 1 point 4:
“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”
G.I. Williamson espousing on this principle write:
“If Scripture is the Word of God, then obviously it must possess divine authority within itself. And if it does possess divine authority, then it cannot and need not depend on anything else (other than God). Authority can depend only on that which is higher than itself…God is the highest authority.”
The central claim of the Quran is that it is ultimately the Word of Allah not just in tone but in general timbre. As Christians, Muslims are assured that the Words of Allah is sure and preserved and therefore it is a claim vested on the very promise and potency of each deity itself. Even though both the Quran and the Bible are from different time-periods, the Bible from antiquity (1st Century) and the Quran from the Middle-ages, they have very different forms and chronicles. In the discussion I tried to show that the very same criticism that is leveled by Dr Sayyed against the Christian Scriptures can be used against the narrative of the Quran, and even more so historically and Quranically we can identify a very positive view on the Bible from both the Prophet and the earliest Islamic traditions. This is something wholly disregarded by Dr Sayyed who depicted rather a very liberal didactic against the Bible, and in doing so he undermined the very means of preservation from his own Scriptures. This is something that he was seemingly clueless about and simply could not understand. Which leads the author of this article to believe his intention to study the Bible was not done with vigilance or any sincerity, but rather it is studied to bring legitimacy to his own claims.
“The originals of the Bible are lost.” The original copies of any book of the Bible are not in existence, the copy of the original is not existent, the copy of the copy of the original is not existent, and the copy of the copy of the copy of the original does not exist.”
Christians agree that the original autographs are not currently in our possession and that because they were written on parchments they seized to exist. But Christians are assured, like Muslims that God would preserve what He has said and revealed. I think it is important to know what the Christian contention is when it comes to the original autographs.
“We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original. We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.”
Dr Sayyed deduces a set of variables that assume that textual critical issues found in the existing manuscripts are problematic because he asserts that the translations and manuscripts, like the original autographs, need to faithfully represent the original autographs. This again is not what Christians proclaim! Again as earlier stated:
“copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.”
Randall Price when he asks the question, ‘what do we mean by the “original Bible”, says the concept of inspiration and inerrancy:
“applies only to the autographic text of Scripture” and extends to copies and translations only insofar as they “faithfully represent the original”. Therefore, it is the words of the Original Bible and these words alone, that embody the authoritative text and serve as the standard of accuracy for every copy or translations… the Scriptures do not extend infallibility beyond the original autographs and for this reason, our definition of Original Bible should be confined to those autographs.”
Dr Sayyed takes his argument a step further and holds the manuscripts which are in existence, have been corrupted and seems ultimately void of its original content and meaning. He laments the fact that we cannot assuredly know what God has said because we do not have the original autographs, but this is simply an empty assertion and an argument from silence because he already acknowledged that we do not have the original autographs. The Christian again holds that we can know what God has said because He assuredly gives us an indication that His words will remain.
It is important to note that Christians hold to the truthfulness of God’s Word even though they do not possess the earliest manuscripts, modern Muslim polemicists deny the validity of the Christian scriptures because they maintain the originals were lost. Christians wholly depend on the assurance of God’s promises Biblically that he will preserve His text; yet, Muslims seemingly deny this reality that undermines their own similar claim to preservation as well. Further, if Muslims deny the authority of the Biblical text because of the assumption that the originals are lost, they also need to be cautious of what the earliest Caliph ‘Uthman destroyed as the original qur’anic text. Sahih Bukhari recounts that:
‘Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied and ordered that all the other Quranic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. …”
The very reason he destroyed the original copies of what was written down was because he wanted to standardize the Quran which implies that that which was written down was not uniform. In another instance the wife of the Prophet Muhammad Aisha said that roughly two-thirds of Surah 33 was lost:
Abu Ubaid, Kitab Fada’il-al-Qur’an—A’isha . . . said, “Surat al-Ahzab (xxxiii) used to be recited in the time of the Prophet with two hundred verses, but when Uthman wrote out the codices he was unable to procure more of it than there is in it today [73 verses]”.
These are not the only claims against the Quran and we can accuse the Quran exactly with the same claims Dr Sayyed makes with one difference, Dr Sayyed will not accept a similar criterion for critiquing the Quran. As a friend once noted, inconsistency is a sign of a failed argument.
Dr Sayyed then inflates his assumptions even more and asserts:
“The Scribes changed what they wanted to change”. “There are contradictions in the Bible”. “There are false statements in the Bible”. “There are falsified Prophecies”. “There are Pornographic stories in the Bible”.
Dr Sayyed almost makes it sound like it was a free for all and people could just insert and exclude exactly what they assumed in all of the Holy Scriptures? Agnostic and Biblical Scholar Bart D. Ehrman even confirm:
“To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us.”
Again, this is a very liberal didactic that he is applying that is not a true reflection of the history of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures and foundationally one he should steer clear off as this would be a position that will undermine his own position around the Quran. Further, not one of Dr Sayyed’s proposed changes and obscurities violates ANY of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian Scriptures. I was taken aback by the fact that Dr Sayyed thinks that the number of horses in Solomon’s stalls (40 000 or 4000) is a noteworthy objection to abdicate all off Christianity and its central worth? In this he is again forgetting similar claims can be made about the Quranic Manuscripts and even more so just shows that the actual copiers or amanuensis made mistakes. But nowhere does it discount the fact that God has spoken and that His instructions are vague?
The reality is that there are contradictions in the Quran as well as false statements, false prophecies, and pornographic stories evident in the Quran and Hadith as well. In fact, it is well contended why the Quran is not the Word of God. John Gilchrist comments:
“As the wiser Muslim has said, the best way for Muslims to gain a true understanding of the Christian faith is to obtain books written by Christians who truly believe in it. This quote is well worthy of the consideration of all sincere Muslims”:
“There is no reason why those established in their faith should not read the Bible. This line may be taken with those who aver their strong faith in Islam. Possession of the Qur’an need not debar the Moslem from making acquaintance with scriptures of such unique historical, moral and instructive importance for all men as the Bible. Many Moslems having at first, through ignorance, rejected the Bible, later on learning its true contents have reckoned it their priceless treasure”. Again, Dr Sayyed cannot afford to be consistent and he cannot dare to apply the same standard to the Quran.
“Which Bible are we referring to? There are 60 versions of the Bible.”
With this statement, Dr Sayyed is trying to create doubt as to the veracity of the Judeo-Christian text. Foundationally he is trying to show that there is simply no uniformity in the essential message of the Christian Scriptures and thereby advocate that what we believe is seemingly nebulous and irrelevant. This cannot be further from the truth when we speak about different Bible ‘’versions’’ we are not saying there is a multiplicity of essential believes of even divergence of the central Biblical narratives. For anyone to assume this it is simply austere and leaves very little doubt that the essential Judeo-Christian narratives have been understood?
There is just no logic in thinking that translations mean variant believes? Dr Sayyed is trying to show that more or lesser books undermine the centrality of essential Christian believes and that there is no unity amongst Christians as to what they essentially hold in esteem which is simply false! There are numerous versions of the Quran as well. Samuel Green goes to great lengths to show seven, and to show apparent differences in them as well..
Roman Catholic Bible has 73 books; Protestant Bible has 66 books; Greek Orthodox Bible has 78 books; Good News Bible has 81 books; Coptic Church Bible has 85 books; Ethiopian Church Bible has 62/81 books; Syrian Church Bible has 22 books.
For the Roman Catholic Church, it was only at the Council of Florence in 1442 were a 73 book Canon was established (46 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New Testament). Again at the canon of Florence (1546) in “the Decree on Sacred Books and on Traditions” the Apocryphal books were to be treated “with equal devotion and reverence.” For the Greek Orthodox Church, their Canon (rule) informs their liturgy and ultimately includes some additional “deuterocanonical” (second-canon) books that are deemed to be fit for Church liturgy. The Good News Bible includes both the ‘apocryphal’ and ‘deuterocanonical’ books which tally to the number 81 books. The Coptic Church includes the same as their Greek Orthodox partners. The Ethiopian Church the same plus the writings of Clement. The Syrian Church includes the Book of Baruch and additional non-Canonical books to the Psalms.
It is interesting that Dr Sayyed would assume that Orthodox Christians vary in the essential believes of the faith because there are a different amount of books in the Bible? We find even very early on in the codification of the Quran that Ibn Masud (first on Muhammad’s list as a dependent source of the Quran) held that the Qur’an should only have 111 chapters (today’s version has 114 chapters), and that chapters 1, 113, and 114 shouldn’t have been included in the Qur’an. Ibn Masud regarded these chapters as early Muslim prayers, not as part of the Quranic revelation. Again if there was any consistency or lack of faith because of the books included in the general order of the Christian Scriptures, why not any skepticism from Dr Sayyed surrounding the Quran?
Many of the Authors we do not know, who are they? How do you know they were inspired by God?
First, the authors all said what was succinctly in harmony with the revealed character of God. Second, the authors speak and record the utterances of God applying it to what is relevant to their own given context. Third, what the authors wrote came to pass in fulfilled and anticipated Prophecy. Fourth, the authors were writing actual History recording the will of God superseding the will of man. Finally, the authors were known as Prophets that spoke for God or close companions that account for the message spoken by Christ or His first Disciples. Dr Sayyed assumes that God could not have spoken authoritatively in this way, but the veracity of the overall periscope and the clarity of the central message shows us exactly why we deem the Scriptures to be sure and true.
How do we know Muhammad was inspired by God? When he initially receives his revelation he thought he was possessed and inspired by Jinn.
”Here is the story told by Muhammad’s wet-nurse, related in Guillaume’s translation of Ibn Ishaq, page 72: “His [Muhammad’s friend’s] father said to me, “I am afraid that this child has had a stroke, so take him back to his family before the result appears. ….. She [Muhammad’s mother] asked me what happened and gave me no peace until I told her. When she asked if I feared a demon had possessed him, I replied that I did.”
Muhammad also received supposed revelations or “satanic suggestion” which he confused as divine revelation. So how can we be sure whatever he received was divinely inspired by God alone, if the evidence clearly shows a violation and more than one source of inspiration.
1 Samuel – Author unknown
2 Samuel – Author unknown
1 Kings – Author unknown
2 Kings – Author unknown (Colin’s Revised Standard Version 1971, Pg.12-17).
Hebrews – Author unknown.
Armin D. Baum argued that the Gospels were intentionally written as anonymous works in order to reflect the practice of the Old Testament historical books which were themselves anonymous (as opposed to other Old Testament writings, like the prophets, which included the identity of the author). It seems like this allows the authors of the gospels “to disappear” and to give “highest priority to their subject matter.” Thus, the anonymity of the Gospels, far from diminishing their scriptural authority, actually served to increase it by consciously placing the Gospels “in the tradition of Old Testament historiography.”
To assume that we have to know the authors before we can believe for a specific book to be accepted as Scriptures is a fair assumption, but it is not the only criteria for Canonicity. Like I have mentioned earlier, Dr Sayyed basically gives a straw man argument in assuming that this is the sole way to authenticate any given text. Further, Christian communities held the central teachings of Christ in great esteem and maintained with an assured vigour the foundational teaching of the faith. I have written about it extensively here:
I will conclude the first part of this article and have set out to merely show that Dr Sayyed’s whole argument invalidates his own fostered believes about the Quran and the traditions of Islam.
 the Quran in Surat al-Hijr, verse 9:
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Quran and indeed, We will be it’s guardian.”
 Searching for the original Bible, Pg.35.
 Sahih Bukhari: vol. 6, hadith 510, pp. 478-479; book 61
 Misquoting Jesus, Pg.207.
 Harris, How to Lead Moslems to Christ, Pg.17
 Armin D. Baum, “The Anonymity of the New Testament History Books: A Stylistic Device in the Context of Greco-Roman and Ancient Near Eastern Literature,”