In the previous debate, I tried to show that from a cursory reading of the Qur’an, it is undeniable that it speaks positively about the Christian Scriptures. Unfortunately, due to loadshedding in South Africa, my internet line was unstable and I could not really anticipate the other speaker’s questions and opinions. So let me start by showing you what the Qur’an says.
The Qur’an’s respectful view of the Bible.
The Qur’an says that the original New Testament is a revelation from God.
Surah Al-Mai’da (5) 46,
“And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.”
(1) The Qur’an affirms that Christians should judge by the previous revelations from Allah.
Sura Al-Mai’da 5 (48) demands that Christians judge the Quran by the Bible;
“To thee (People of the Book) 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.”
(2) The Qur’an also confirms that Jesus was a Prophet, and Muslims should believe his words.
Surah an-Nisāʾ (4) 171 (c)
“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word, which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So, believe in Allah and His messengers.”
(3) Christians must uphold the Old Testament, and the New Testament is revealed in the Prophet’s day.
Surah Al-Mai’da (5) 68,
“Say, “O People of the Scripture, you are [standing] on nothing until you uphold [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been revealed to you from your Lord.” And that which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in transgression and disbelief. So do not grieve over the disbelieving people.”
(4) It is important to note that Christians were obligated to accept the New Testament of Muhammad’s day.
Surah al-Yūnus (10) 94
“So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters.”
(5) The Quran claims that those who followed Jesus would be kept superior until the day of resurrection.
In Surah Ali Imran (3) 55,
“O Jesus, indeed, I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.”
Surah As-Saf (61) 14,
“O you, who have believed, be supporters of Allah, as when Jesus, the son of Mary, said to the disciples, “Who are my supporters for Allah?” The disciples said, “We are supporters of Allah.” And a faction of the Children of Israel believed, and a faction disbelieved. So, We supported those who believed against their enemy, and they became dominant”
So, the message initially preached would be made superior until the day of resurrection, and Jesus’ original Disciples would remain uppermost. The Qur’an’s author affirms that the Old and New Testaments are scriptures from Allah and claims that Jesus was a Prophet whose message should be believed. Therefore, Christians must uphold and accept the revelations that were revealed in the Prophet’s day. And the message of the disciples of Jesus would be maintained, and they would be dominant. Just for my Muslim friends in the listening audience to better understand what Christians find when they read the plain reading of these texts, as Sura Al-Mai’da 5 (48) demands. So, what does the Old Testament say about its preservation?
The affirmation of God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament.
First, the Prophet Isaiah (40:8) shows again that every decree from God is preserved when he says;
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
King David announced in his Psalms (119:89):
“Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.”
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is a great reward. (Psalm. 19:7-11).
What does the New Testament affirm when we apply the criteria from Sura Al-Mai’da 5 (48)? In the Gospel account, Jesus affirms that the Words that He has spoken will be preserved;
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:31).
Jesus also claimed that the Old Testament Scriptures (Matt. 5:17) cannot disappear and will be preserved.
“not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
To His disciples, He commands;
“And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (Joh 15:27).
And secondly, he reminds them;
“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (Joh 14:26).
So, we can affirm that when the Qur’an claims that Christians should depend on its internal witness, it assuredly accounts for its credibility. We could then say the New Testament (and Old) affirm what the Qur’an demands. Two Surahs testify to the reality that Allah’s words are sure.
“Say: “Shall I seek for judge other than God? – when He it is Who hath sent unto you the Book, explained in detail.” They know full well, to whom We have given the Book, that it hath been sent down from thy Lord in truth. Never be then of those who doubt. 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.” (S. Al-An ‘am 6 (114-115).
“And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change His Words, and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than Him.” (S.Al-Khaf 18 (27).
Some Muslims lament that these Surahs merely speak of preserving Allah’s decrees, judgments, and decisions and not the Scriptures as Christians have it. In 6:115/18.27, Dr. Sayyed Nasr confirms in the Study Quran says,
Allah completes [tamāman] His revelation,” and the same is said of the Book given to Moses in 6.154 as well as 9.32 & 61.8, where “God completes His light. The ‘speech or word’ [kalam] of Allah is given to Moses, and the same promise of preservation, therefore, applies in these passages (7.144-145).
Christians and Muslims must have high regard for what was revealed.
Why won’t the claims of falsification or misrepresentation work?
Inevitable when we discuss credibility from a Qur’anic perspective, we need to account for its accusations against the Jews and Christians that changed, misrepresented, or even falsified their text. There are eight instances where the Qur’an makes explicit accusations against Jews and Christians but do believe when we unpack these verses, the Quran, in its estimation, tells us precisely what it intends to refute. Gordon Nickel writes;
The first part of the second sūra, the Quran commands the Children of Israel not to “conceal (katama) the truth knowingly” (2.42). By the end of the sixth sūra, the Quran has used these verbs an additional ten times, apparently with reference to the treatment of the earlier scriptures… More difficult to interpret are the verses using the Arabic verbs ḥarrafa (2.75; 4.46; 5.13, 41) and baddala (2.59; 7.162), or expressions like “twist tongues” (3.78) and “write the book with hands” (2.79). These verses generally lack information as to the precise nature of the action, who is doing the action, and what text, if any, is being acted upon.
In all, the Qur’an describes scriptural misrepresentation with eight different verbs or verb phrases:
1. And; 2. Surat al-Baqara (2) 42 Do not cover up (talbisū, cf. Q 3:71) the truth with falsehood and conceal (taktumu; cf. Q 2:140, 146, 159, 174; 3:71, 187) the truth, for you know [it].
3. Surat al-Baqara (2) 59a Those who were in error exchanged (baddalū) the declaration (qawl) with one which they were not told. (Cf. Q 7:162.).
4. Surat al-Baqara (2) 79 Woe to those who write (yaktubūna) revelation (al–kitab) with their hands and then say, “This is from God.”
5. Surat al Imran (3) 78a Among them is a group who twist their tongues (yalwūna alsina tahum) with the revelation. (Cf. Q 4:46.)
6. Surat al-Nisa (4) 46 Among the Jews are those who shift (yuharrifūna ‘an; Q 2:75; 4:46; 5:13, 41) words out of their contexts (on this idiom, v.i.) . . . while they twist their tongues (layyān bi-alsinatihim) and speak evil of the faith.
7. Surat al-Maida (5) 13-14 Because they have violated their covenant, We cursed them and made their hearts hard. They shift words out of their contexts. They forgot (nasū) a portion of what was recounted to them. … As for those who say, “We are nasārā,” we made a covenant with them, but they forgot (nasū) a portion of what was recounted to them. (Cf. 7:53, 165.)
8. Surat al-Maida (5) 15 “O People of the Book, our messenger has o you to present much of what you were hiding (tukhfūna) of the truth.”
Gabriel Sayed Reynolds therefore says;
Evidently, the Quran is principally concerned with the misuse of Scripture. In none of these examples does the Qur’an insist that passages of the Bible have been rewritten or that books of the Bible have been destroyed and replaced by false Scripture. Instead, the Qur’an argues that revelation has been ignored, misread, forgotten, or hidden. The Qur’an is certainly concerned with false Scripture when it proclaims, “Woe to those who write revelation (al-kitab) with their hands and then say, ‘This is from God’.” (Q 2:79).12 Yet in this passage the Qur’an does not accuse Jews or Christians of changing the Bible. Instead, it argues against those who treat the words of humans as revelation, while neglecting the words of God.
Personally, I do think there is ample evidence that the Qur’an is referring to the early gnostic texts that directly followed the Biblical New Testament books that the Qur’an internally is contending with. For example:
S.21.51-70 = Midrash Rabba/Book of Jubilees.
S.5.30-35 = Pirke Rabbi Eliezer/ Misna Sanhedrin 4.5.
S.27.20-40 = Targum Sheni or the Second Targum of Esther.
S.19.29-31/3.46 = Arabic Gospel of the infancy of the Saviour.
S.3.49/5.110 = Arabic Gospel of the infancy of the Saviour.
S.18.10-22 = from the Orthodox folk tale of the ‘seven sleepers of Ephesus.’
The point is that according to most Western scholars, the Quran refers to textual alteration with the verb “yuharrifuna” (the noun tahrif itself does not appear in the Qur’an). Hava Lazarus Yafeh, professor and head of the Department for Islamic Civilization at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, defines the Qur’an’s use of tahrif accordingly:
Change, alteration, forgery; used with regard to words, and more specifically with regard to what Jews and Christians are supposed to have done to their respective Scriptures (yuharrifuna ‘l-kalima can mawadichi [sic], sura IV, 46, V, 13; see also II, 75), in the sense of perverting the language through altering words from their proper meaning, changing words in form or substituting words or letters for others.
Gabriel Sayyed Reynolds writes;
To this point, a second point should be added, namely, that in the Qur’an, the verbal form of tahrif (Q 2:75; 4:46; 5:13; 5:41) is always used against the Jews and never against the Christians. Indeed, Qur’anic material on scriptural falsification is largely directed against the Jews (although, at times, the Qur’an specifies that only certain wrongdoers among them are at fault). The Qur’an’s concern with the Jews is explicit in some verses dealing with scriptural falsification (e.g., Q 4:46); in other verses, it is evident from the context.
The Question of falsification.
The Muslim, as opposed to Qur’anic, charge of corruption against the Bible usually refers to al-tahrif al-lafzi, changing the actual text, rather than al-tahrif al-ma’nawi, misinterpreting such. Many scholars locate the first significant development of the accusation in the writings of Ibn Ḥazm (d. 1064) of Cordoba. Ibn Ḥazm’s Kitāb al-fiṣal fī’ l-milal set up the main lines of the accusation. He presented examples from the Hebrew Bible of what he considered to be chronological and geographical inaccuracies, theological impossibilities, and behavior of prophets that did not match the Islamic doctrine of the infallibility (‘iṣma) of prophets. Ibn Ḥazm’s critique provided the main inspiration for the accusation until Rahmat Allah Kayranwi added material from European works of “higher criticism” in his 1864 polemic, Iẓhār al-ḥaqq.
Gordon Nickel assures us again that;
As far as the Quran is concerned, if the Quran does indeed make an accusation of falsification against the Bible, it is a bare claim, not supported in the Quran with anything like material evidence. The accusation, therefore, needs to be evaluated academically in light of the history of biblical manuscripts – from the earliest Qumran evidence (third century BC), through the origins of the Quran (seventh century AD), and up to the famous manuscripts dated to the first centuries of Islam (e.g., Masoretic Text, tenth century AD). Academic studies have revealed a few inconsistencies in this manuscript history, but none has indicated that any possible material about Muhammad was altered or erased.
Muslim exegetes show a respectful view of the Christian Scriptures.
Even though our opponents and the audience might object to this point and say this is not the central claim of this discussion. I would add that it is crucial to consider the scholarly consensus understanding of the Christian scriptures. Abdullah Saeed Writes;
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.
Egyptian jurist and religious scholar Muhammad Abduh (1849 – 1905) writes;
the charge of corruption of the Biblical texts makes no sense at all. It would not have been possible for Jews and Christians everywhere to agree on changing the text. Even if those in Arabia had done it, the difference between their Book and those of their brothers, let us say, in Syria and Europe would have been obvious…We believe that these Gospel accounts are the true Gospel.
Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub from the University of Denver says;
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.
Both the Hebrew Bible and the N.T. took their final form long before the rise of Islam. The Qur’an speaks of both the Torah and the Gospel as in them is guidance and light. It calls on the two faith-communities to judge by what God had revealed in their Scriptures. It also speaks that both Jews and Christians altered words from their right places and had forgotten some of what God had revealed for them. This does not mean distorting, adding, and deleting of the Scriptures. Therefore, Qur’anic references to tahrif, or alteration, are more to interpretation rather than changing the texts.
Mawlawi Muhammad Sa’id (Pakistan) writes;
Some Muslims imagine that the Injil is corrupted. But… not even one among all the verses of the Qur’an mentions that the Injil or Tawrat is corrupted… it is written that the Jews -… not the Christians… alter the meaning of the passages from the Tawrat while they are explaining them. At least the Christians are completely exonerated from this charge. Hence the Injil is not corrupted and the Tawrat is not corrupted…
Sayyid Ahmad Husayn Shawkat Mirthi says;
The ordinary Muslim people…believe through hearsay…that the Injil is corrupted, even though they cannot indicate what passage was corrupted, when it was corrupted, and who corrupted it. Is there any religious community…whose lot is so miserable that they would shred their heavenly Book with their own hands…? To say that God has taken the Injil and the Tawrat into heaven and has abrogated them is to defame and slander God…
I have shown that there are three points worth considering when speaking about the Qur’an Validating the New Testament:
First, as my debate partner has shown in his opening statement, we need to consider that the Quran has an overwhelmingly positive and respectful view of the Christian Scriptures.
Second, when we apply the Sura Al-Mai’da 5 (48) criteria, we see what God in the OT and Jesus in the NT say about the Scriptures.
Third, I have also shown that any assumption of falsification or misrepresentation of the Christian Scriptures does not lead to the exuberant claim of change we hear highlighted by some polemicists today but still upholds an optimistic estimation of the Christian Scriptures.
Lastly, Scholarly consensus by Muslim exegetes shows a respectful view of the Christian Scriptures.
 The Qur’an with Christian Commentary. Pg. 201-203.
 Journal of the American Oriental Society 130.2 (2010), The Qur’anic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification, Pg. 193.
 H. Lazarus-Yafeh, “Tahrif,” in El2, 10: 111a.13
 Ibid, Pg 194.
 The Qur’an with Christian Commentary. Pg. 201-203.
 The Muslim World 92 (2002), Pg. 429.
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