4.6.3 Moslem Criticisms Of The Bible Answered
There are flat contradictions between the Bible and the Qur’an, especially relating to the records of the crucifixion of Jesus. The Muslim simply assumes that the Qur’an is right and the Bible wrong; but this is to start with a presupposition, and then seek evidence to support it. To say that the Bible has been changed by the Jews hardly seems likely - both Old and New Testaments are full of criticisms of the Jews. The texts of both Testaments have been in the possession of both Jews and Christians, so they would both have had to agree if the texts were indeed to be tampered with. For 200 years before the time of Jesus, the Hebrew Old Testament existed in Greek translation as the Septuagint, and this would have had to be changed along with the Hebrew texts, if indeed the Old Testament was changed by Christians as Islam requires. Muslims can give no dates, no places, no names, responsible for the changing of the Bible texts which they assume happened. Their presupposition that the Bible must be wrong because it disproves the Qur’an therefore drives them to make assumptions and claims which totally lack evidence. The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal how the texts have lost virtually nothing through the generations of recopying - these manuscripts were of the Old Testament, dating from the 2nd century BC. Their correspondence with later manuscripts is exact! The Codex Alexandrinus contains the entire Septuagint and also New Testament, written on vellum dating back to at least the 4th century AD; and the Codex Siniaticus contains the New Testament written in at least the 3rd century. The Codex Vaticanus dates from the 4th century. Note this is all before the times of Muhammad. And yet these three different manuscripts are all in substantial agreement! The first two are housed in the British Museum, London; and the third in the Vatican. So there is no way that it can be said that the text of the New Testament has been changed over at least 17 centuries! It is therefore no argument to say that over time, a manuscript must inevitably change. On this basis, we could expect the Qur’an to have changed too. There are at least 24,000 ancient New Testament manuscripts available for analysis - far more than for the Qur’an. The next most well supported book, Homer’s Iliad, has only 643. And there are original fragments of John dating back to 120 AD, and of Matthew to 65 AD. The few variant readings do not affect in any way the sense of the text; and none of the variant readings contradicts anything written elsewhere in the New Testament. There are so many allusions to the New Testament in contemporary writings of the first 3 centuries AD that it is possible to reconstruct the entire New Testament apart from 9 verses! Nothing like this is possible with the Koran because the text was not so firmly fixed. There were many many variant readings in the Qur’an text - for Muhammad was illiterate and what he said was written down by various people - and these were only ended when Caliph Uthman ordered all other copies of the Qur’an in existence to be destroyed apart from that complied by Zaid-ibn-Thabit (see John Gilchrist, Muhammad And The Religion Of Islam pp. 176-199). If this had been done to the Bible, one would be left wondering whether we did have the original text, and whether it hadn’t been tampered with. And this question must afflict every intellectually honest Muslim. For where is there any evidence that God inspired Caliph Uthman to do this?
Muhammad was told: “He sent down to you the Scripture [the Qur’an]…and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel” (3.3) And Jesus was “sent the Gospel” (5.46). Islam assumes that the Torah and the Gospel were sent from God, but the Old and New Testaments which we now have are not the same thing. Yet this claim is just lacking in any evidence at all. The books which they claim were revealed to Moses [Torah- Tawraat] and Jesus [the Gospel- Injil] just don’t exist anywhere, nor is there any evidence for them ever having existed. The Qur’an deepens the problem by stating that these books were those in the hands of Jews and Christians at the time of Muhammad (5.44,50). Jews and Christians are told that the Law and Gospel have come to them as revelation from the Lord (5.71). And the Qur’an is said to be a confirmation of what was in the Scriptures which the Jews of Medina were reading at the time of Muhammad (2.91; 10.94). But the books which they possessed at his time were the Old and New Testaments as we now know them. There is no evidence that any other books existed! If God, as Muslims claim, preserved the exact text of the Qur’an, why could He not preserve these other books as well? And 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? How can it be that the Qur’an calls down curses on “the people of the book” if they do not obey the Torah and Gospel (5.47)- if these documents are hopelessly corrupted. How can we obey a Law and Gospel which is unknown? There are a number of Muslim writers from the 9th and 10 th centuries who insist that the commonly accepted Old and New Testaments were in fact what was in the hands of “the people of the book” (as the Qur’an calls Jews and Gentiles) at that time. Al-Ghazzali, one of the greatest Muslim theologians ever, lived in the 10th century and quoted the Bible without ever doubting the trustworthiness of the text. “Al-Ghazali did not accuse the Christians of altering the texts, but rather of misinterpreting them” (Wismer, The Islamic Jesus p. 165). Fakhruddin Razi, who died in 1209 “…confirming categorically that the Biblical text has not been changed…” (Ananikian, The Alteration of The Bible According To the Moslems, The Muslim World, Vol. 14 p. 77).
It is significant that it is later generations of Muslim apologists, not the Qur’an itself, who say that the Jews corrupted the Bible text. The passages in the Qur’an (e.g. 5.14,44) which are quoted by them speak of the Jews of Medina twisting words and distorting the verbal recitation of the Qur’an - not of scribes corrupting Hebrew manuscripts.
The sheer intellectual desperation of Muslim critics makes one wonder what is driving them. Many of the supposed contradictions in the Bible are so easily answerable that one wonders why they have to resort to them if the Bible is so fundamentally flawed. Thus they claim that because Matthew writes in the 3rd person, his Gospel couldn’t have been written by him. But Allah, whom Muslims suppose wrote the Qur’an, writes in the same 3rd person: “He is Allah, there is no god except Him” (59.22)- and they don’t think that this disproves that Allah is the author. Likewise, 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! But no book written would have 40 errors / page. Why such gross exaggeration? Has he ever actually listed them all…?
The most commonly raised criticisms are:
1. The Genealogies Of Jesus
Both Matthew and Luke agree on the genealogy from Abraham/Ibrahim to David. From there, Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus through Solomon, and Luke through Nathan. Matthew takes us to Joseph, the legal guardian of Jesus: and Luke to Mary. He speaks of Jesus as the “supposed” son of Joseph. He doesn’t mention any women in his genealogy - and for the sake of sustaining a masculine genealogy, Joseph is named in her place. The early chapters of Matthew focus on Joseph’s role, whereas those of Luke focus on Mary.
2. Many of the supposed contradictions relating to numbers – e.g. one record saying “hundreds” another “thousands”- are understandable once it is recognized that the words translated with these terms refer to military units, not exact numbers. Likewise a Roman ‘century’ contained not 100 but 80 soldiers. The following are commonly quoted in Moslem handbooks of how to prove contradictions in the Bible:
2 Sam. 10:18 And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen, and smote Shobach the captain of their host, who died there.
1 Chron. 19:18 But the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians seven thousand men which fought in chariots, and forty thousand footmen, and killed Shophach the captain of the host.
Comment: The difference between 700 chariots and 7000 men is because there would have been around 10 men in each chariot; hence there is no contradiction between 700 chariots recorded by one historian, and 7000 “men which fought in chariots” in another record. 40,000 horsemen and 40,000 footmen can be reconciled by any of the following:
- They may have arrived on horses but fought on foot
- It could be that both 40,000 horsemen and a further 40,000 footmen were killed. 2 Sam. 8:4 describes a similar victory likewise in terms of how many horsemen and how many footmen were killed.
- Adam Clarke comments: “It is very probable that, in former times, the Jews expressed, as they often do now, their numbers, not by words at full length, but by numeral letters; and, as many of the letters bear a great similarity to each other, mistakes might easily creep in when the numeral letters came to be expressed by words at full length. This alone will account for the many mistakes which we find in the numbers in these books, and renders a mistake here very probable. The letter ז zain, with a dot above, stands for seven thousand, נ nun for seven hundred: the great similarity of these letters might easily cause the one to be mistaken for the other, and so produce an error in this place”.
1 Kings 7:26 And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths.
2 Chron. 4:5 And the thickness of it was an handbreadth, and the brim of it like the work of the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies; and it received and held three thousand baths.
Comment: It could be that the container had a capacity of 3,000 baths, but it was filled to 2,000 baths normally. It should also be remembered that the Chronicles account was written during or after the captivityof the Jews in Babylon. It is possible that a new container had been built by that time, larger than the one initially built by Solomon. 2 Chron. 3:3 speaks of “cubits after the first measure”, referring to how the earlier definition of measures such as cubits, during the time of Moses, were not the same as the Babylonian measures. Adam Clarke cites evidence that “the Babylonish cubit was a palm or one-sixth shorter than the cubit of Moses”. The definition of a “bath” was probably also different. This is why Ez. 43:13, as a prophecy given in Babylon, had to define the cubit specifically as the Jewish cubit rather than the Babylonian cubit.
1 Kings 4:26 And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.
1 Kings 9:25 And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.
Comment: It could be that 40,000 stalls were for horses; but 4,000 for the 1,400 chariots themselves (1 Kings 10:26) and some horses. Or, there were 40,000 horses in 4,000 stables, 10 horses / stable, which would be reasonable. Another possibility is that 1 Kings 4:26 speaks of the number of horses Solomon had in total throughout his kingdom, whereas 1 Kings 9:25 speaks only of the 4,000 he had in Jerusalem. The Septuagint reads 4,000 in 1 Kings 4:26. There could have been a slight copying error between ‘arbaim’ [forty] and ‘arbah’ [four]. Our position is that the original texts were inspired and infallible, but there may have been slight errors in translation and copying of those texts.
1 Chronicles 18:9 Now when Tou king of Hamath heard how David had smitten all the host of Hadarezer king of Zobah; He sent Hadoram his son to king David, to enquire of his welfare, and to congratulate him, because he had fought against Hadarezer, and smitten him; (for Hadarezer had war with Tou;) and with him all manner of vessels of
gold and silver and brass.
2 Samuel 8:9 When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had smitten all the host of Hadadezer, Then Toi sent Joram his son unto king David, to salute him, and to bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer, and smitten him: for Hadadezer had wars with Toi. And Joram brought with him vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and vessels of brass
Comment: Joram is clearly another name for Hadoram
Ezra 2:5 The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five.
Nehemiah 7:10 The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two.
Comment: The list in Ezra was made in Babylon, when the Jews who wanted to return to Judah made a kind of register. The Nehemiah list was made when they actually arrived in Jerusalem. The differences in numbers reflect the fact that some died on the way; others maybe registered but didn’t come, preferring to stay in the soft life of Babylon at the last minute. Other areas show higher numbers in Nehemiah’s list of those who arrived; because presumably others at the last minute decided to come with them.
Also, the Ezra list was compiled before the people had been ordered by their genealogies. By Nehemiah’s time, everyone had been placed in families more accurately, especially those who didn’t know their genealogy. This would account for some of the differences of numbers for the different families and areas.
2 Kings 8:25 In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel did Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah begin to reign. Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.
2 Chron. 22:2 Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri.
Comment:This would appear to be a case of a confusion between the Hebrew letter for ‘twenty’ and that for ‘forty’; the difference is miniscule. It would seem this was a copyist’s error. However, it is just possible that 2 Chron. 22:2 is referring to the 42nd year of the kingdom of his mother’s family, i.e. it was the 42nd year of the reign of the family of Omri in Israel.
2 Sam. 8:4 And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.
1 Chron. 18:4 And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: David also houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them an hundred chariots.
Comment: The difference between 700 and 7000 is a matter of a point over one of the letters. This would then be a copyist’s error, not an error of the original inspiration. Alternatively, the smaller number of 700 may refer to the chief officers captured; or seven ‘hundreds’ or companies, of 10 men each, making the 7000 total of 1 Chron. 18:4.
2 Samuel 24:9 And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
1 Chronicles 21:5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.
Comment: The 800,000 men of Israel compared to the 1,100,000 could be because the 800,000 were the potential men of war who were numbered, excluding the standing army which David already had- comprised of 24,000 men who served every month, i.e. 288,000 / year. If they had 12,000 officers, 1,000 for each tribe, then this would explain the ‘missing’ 300,000 (see 1 Chron. 27:1).
The differences in the numbers of Judah could be because the 30,000 not numbered in 2 Sam. 24:9 refer to those of Levi and Benjamin, whom Joab didn’t count; or, 470,000 was rounded up to 500,000.