Taken from my YouTube discussion with some Muslims: I want to start by saying that I expect you to believe in the Gospel as commanded in the Qur’an. In Surah 3 ayat 78 (http://quran.com/3/78) but we are also to take note of Surah 3 ayat 72 (http://quran.com/3/72).
Though I know the story of how the Qur’an came to be, how ‘Aisha, the child-wife of Allah’s prophet, told the story of how a goat ate a good portion of the book we now know at the Qur’an. This was reported by Sunan Ibn Majah in the Hadith.
The narration goes as;
عن عائشة قالت لقد نزلت آية الرجم ورضاعة الكبير عشرا ولقد كان في صحيفة تحت سريري فلما مات رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وتشاغلنا بموته دخل داجن فأكلها
Reported ‘Aisha (RA): ‘the verse of stoning and of suckling an adult ten times was revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah expired and we were occupied by his death, a goat entered and ate away the paper.’ (Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith 1944)
To add a strong authenticity to the Qur’an, I want to ignore the above story, at least for a good reason – have an open discussion and assume all excuses that ‘Aisha was either lying or the goat that ate the Qur’an never existed and the Hadith was made up. Otherwise, the story above reduces or even tears apart the authencity of the Qur’an, especially in the case for “perfect preservation”. Okay?
I will also dedicate this article to the new friends I met on YouTube, challenging and trying to debate this subject: iRedEx23, Ibn Lahad, Baba Mutah Imam Murrah, M O S, Vιитαgε Wølf, and many others. I believe you are all nice guys seeking the truth.
In most of my articles, you would rarely see me questioning the text of the Qur’an, and I am relatively convinced it is pretty accurate. But even if not, there is only one Qur’an, and I have to deal with the one Qur’an Muslims believe in and not with a speculative different version, even though it has been stated in recent times that there are at least 37 different Qur’ans, different not because of translation but different because it is completely different.
The authenticity of the text, however, does not necessarily imply its validity. And you have not even touched on this point. Even if it is absolutely clear that the text of the Qur’an is the same as what Muhammad spoke in front of his companions as the revelation he claimed to have received, it is still the same main point or question – if it was a revelation in the first place. That is the angle where I have my doubts.
In the following, I am not going to talk about these doubts though. I want to take up your own Muslim method of arguing for the preservation of the Qur’an and show you that by the very same reasons, the gospel was preserved, and therefore, the well preserved Qur’an and the well preserved Gospel (Injeel), are still in conflict. And this is a conflict that is not resolved by “preservation issues”, but we have to deal with the contents of these two books.
Feedback is most welcome. To keep a focused perpective here, I am not really too much interested in the discussion of the meaning of the Biblical passages and Christian practices which I am going to quote and bring into the argument as we go along. The main thrust here is to show that these things have been passed on in the churches from generation to generation with regular observance just as the Qur’an and Islamic faith has been passed on from the beginning as the original poster asserts. And if the Muslim argument is valid, then so should be the Christian argument. That is what I would like to get feedback on if you want to reply to this.
Have Christians changed the central message of the Gospel?
That is the usual claim that Muslims make, since the Crucifixion, as atoning, sacrificial death, which is central to the Christian gospel is flatly denied by the Qur’an, both as an event and in its meaning.
Let me try to give you an illustration of why I think the following argument is strong evidence against this accusation.
We know that under Uthman there has been a compilation of the Qur’an and this compilation was then made into a binding text for all Muslims. [Whether there are any variations to earlier texts is insubstantial for the following argument, so let us assume, there were none.]
The most important prayer meeting in Islam is the congregational Friday prayer at the Masjid, and the way how they are observed like the specific sequence of bows, prostrations, etc are clearly specified and probably have been the same from the time of Muhammad onward. Also, the fact that the direction of prayer has to be towards Mecca.
The Uthmanic Qur’an collection/edition was done some decades after the death of Muhammad. Now, as a thought experiment, imagine what would have been the reaction of the Muslim congregation if they were to find in these copies statements saying that the congregational prayer should be on Monday instead of Friday? Additionally, on this day the direction for prayer is facing to Jerusalem in honour of God’s Temple among the Jews, or to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in commemoration for the asylum they gave to the early persecuted Muslims?
Clearly, the congregation would have rejected such a “Qur’an” as unreliable and corrupted. They knew exactly what the traditions were and what they have been doing week in week out from the time of Muhammad onward. As “noble” as the reasons for such change might be, it is NOT what has come down via the tradition in the community of believers.
And even if changes in “more peripheral issues” might have gone without (immediate) notice [and I don’t suggest that there are any], a change in the central traditions is unthinkable. The reaction of protest would have been swift and loud.
Every Muslim who had been a Muslim for a few weeks only would know the day of the assembly, the proper movements at prayer, the direction to face etc.
Muslims go even further and say the existence of “Huffaz” controlling each other guarantees that the Qur’an cannot be changed at all even in small details.
What does that have to do with the “corruption of the Gospel”?
A lot. Christians also have a number of “rituals” which have been the same from the very beginning onward and are observed regularly.
Baptism is one of them, and the integral part of each baptism is the confession of Jesus as Lord, as well as that the water used at the baptism is a symbol of the cleansing from sin brought about by the death of Jesus.
Had this not been there, could you imagine that “somebody” would be able to invent it, smuggle it into a few manuscripts, then the Christian church would “find it” in these suddenly appearing corrupted manuscripts which are stating that this has been a regular procedure for all new converts from the very beginning onward and react with “goodness, we seem to have overlooked something here” and start doing it? And especially, can you imagine that such an incident would not be leaving any trace of this surprise and change of custom?
If you think such substantial changes, both in “action/ritual” as well as in the meaning of what is an essential part of your faith would be impossible among Muslims, why do you think that is surely what happened to the Christians?
No, baptism including the confession of Lordship of Jesus, and the cleansing from sin through his death is an integral part from the time of the original church and it started at the first day the church was born. Read about it in Acts 2:36-42.
Let me include an incident here to illustrate my point. Around 410 A.D. when a new Latin translation was introduced in the Latin speaking Western Churches [the Eastern churches spoke Greek or Syriac]. Augustine, bishop of Hippo (modern Algeria) reports: “A riot broke out in one North-African church when the bishop, reading Jonah 4:6, called the plant which shaded Jonah from the sun an “ivy” (Latin: hedera), in accordance with Jerome’s new translation, and not a “gourd” (cucurbita), the term to which they were accustomed. The bishop was forced to change the rendering so as not to lose his congregation…” [see F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, InterVarsity Press, p. 94]
If a wrong plant name can elicit such a strong reaction from a congregation what do you think would be the reaction to an attempt to introduce a completely new ritual and change of doctrine at the centre of the faith?
There were many heresies springing up from the second century onward and maybe even earlier, and so the Christian churches were very conscious that they had to carefully guard what was “once and for all delivered” [Jude 3] through the Apostles and which teachings did not have apostolic backing.
[Background: The most used version of the Old Testament was the Septuagint, a Jewish translation of their scriptures into the Greek language. But since the believers in North-Africa, Spain, Gaul (France) were mainly Latin speaking, very soon there were Latin translations of the Septuagint which were used for the scripture readings in the worship services and other meetings.
These translations were not always very accurate and were made from the Septuagint, i.e. they were translations of a translation. Around 380 A.D. Jerome got the task of making a new translation of the Bible into Latin, and he went back to the Hebrew Scriptures and translated the Old Testament from the original. This translation was completed around 405 A.D. and after many years of transition it became the generally accepted Latin Bible, and was then called “The Vulgate”.]
Back to the “rituals” and their implications. There would be much more to say about baptism, and though a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for each individual believer, it was a regular ritual with the participation of the congregation at large, especially since Christianity was growing explosively over the first several hundred years and there were constantly new converts to baptize and integrate into the church.
But there is another such sacrament or ‘ordinance’, called the “Eucharist” or “Lord’s Supper”, which in most churches is observed each Sunday and with the involvement of the whole congregation. And at this sacrament, I want to have a closer look.
In the Catholic and Orthodox churches, this is the very centre of their worship and hence not easily fiddled with. And the early church documents show that this was an important part of the Christian worship from the beginning on.
Furthermore, as we will see from the quotations, this was Jesus’ “last request” before his death which he asked his disciples to adhere to. And even in secular circumstances, “last words” or “last wishes” are taken very seriously.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.
15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
The apostle Matthew records it even clearer with “this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.
And after 3000 converts at Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost, Acts 2:42 reports that this new church among other things is devoted to “the breaking of bread” which is referring to the Lord’s Supper. And the apostle Paul has to write to the Corinthians in about A.D. 55 about the Lord’s Supper. Not to introduce something new, but to correct them in the way they were dealing with this and not having enough reverence for the Lord’s body and blood. He writes to them because they have the wrong attitude about it, not because they have never heard of it. Read about it in 1 Corinthians 10:15-22 and 11:17-32, of which I will just quote here:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Why does Paul say “we proclaim the Lord’s DEATH” by this, instead of his resurrection? After all, later in the same letter, he devotes a whole long chapter [the 15th] to stress the importance of the resurrection? Why is Jesus choosing the “Passover” feast for this occasion? This is extremely important to understand.
When God was liberating the Jews out of the Egyptian bondage, the last of the punishments on the Egyptians was the oldest son in each family died. The death angel of God was going through the houses and killing the oldest son in every house. And he told the Israelites through Moses, to slay a lamb, and to put the blood at the doorposts. And the death angel of God will pass over [pass by] those houses with the blood. Their sin was covered by the blood of the lamb which died.
For the Egyptians, it became a night of the wrath of God, and of death. For the Israelites, it became the night of liberation. And the blood of this Passover Lamb was very instrumental in it and forever a symbol, of both, God’s judgment and God’s mercy and forgiveness since God commanded Israel to celebrate the remembrance of Passover each year.
When Jesus instituted the “new Passover” meal, He very consciously chose the occasion of the Israelite Passover meal to do so and connected the meaning and symbols of the old with the new, calling this now “the new covenant in his blood”. And just as the old Passover meal, it is the remembrance of God’s judgement of sin and God’s mercy of forgiveness. And without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin, as the constant testimony of the Bible is from the first book to the last book.
I hope this, my friends, clarifies this matter that your faith in the Gospel should be restored according to the Qur’an, especially in Surah 3 ayat 72 (http://quran.com/3/72).
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 reply. Their testimony proves that Christian-Muslim dialogue need not forever be stymied by the allegation 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.”
May God be praised for the witness of these honest men. Bless you, my friends. May you encounter Christ the Saviour. Amen.
Argument For The Gospels: Heavily influenced by friends with whom I have shared public forums in witnessing that the Gospel is true.
Also see: http://www.answering-islam.org/Bible/Text/wijngaards.html
Main Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash, Bible Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash, Muslim Praying Photo by Abdullah Ghatasheh from Pexels. Communion Table Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash
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