Monday, October 13, 2008

The Integrity of the Bible and the Quran

The link to the video of the Ahmad Deedat, Jimmy Swaggart debate I posted yesterday was entitled "Is the Bible God's Word?" Eventually, I might cover more topics but here are my comments on just one.

First, I want to address the textual authenticity of the Bible. The part where Mr. Deedat mentions the parts of Mark contained in the King James version that were left out of and later replaced in the original printing of the Revised Standard Version are an obvious problem and show direct evidence of human tampering. I don't deny that there are certain factions of Christianity who are willing to turn their head and deny obvious truths such as those additions. However, most modern Bibles that include those verses have a note that those verses are not found in the oldest known manuscripts.

As said, there are many translations of the Bible, just as there are of the Quran. The versions of the Bible continue to improve as Bible scholars conduct more research and as additional evidence, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered. However, as was mentioned by Reverend Swaggart in the debate and in Chawkat Moucarry's book, The Prophet and the Messiah, the Bible has actually remained very error-free considering the generations and generations of hand copying. Rev. Swaggart says that there are 24,000 manuscripts of the oldest Biblical documents, which is a testament to its coherency. Mr. Deedat then argues that of those 24,000 manuscripts, no two are identical. Looking at the problem from a strictly information theoretical point of view, even if each of those manuscripts contains twenty errors, the amount of redundant information contained in that huge number of manuscripts can easily be used to reconstruct the original, untampered documents (for a computer example of redundant information, look at how RAID storage maintains data integrity even through loss of a disk. Now imagine the amount of data loss/tampering that 24,000 disks could tolerate).

Although, I'm not going to go into too much detail about the integrity of the Quran, I did want to mention it briefly. Rev. Swaggart mentioned how during the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan, an official version of the Quran was compiled and distributed to the extants of the Islamic empire and all prior copies of the Quran were ordered destroyed. This event was also detailed in Moucarry's book. Additionally, if God is capable of preserving the Quran, why isn't he capable of preserving the Bible? The Quranic verses describing the corruption of the Bible have been interpreted by Islamic scholars in various ways including simply the intentional misinterpretation (or flat-out ignoring the correctly interpreted) of God's uncorrupted Word. Had I not already returned the book, I could tell you which well-known Islamic scholars argued this (it might have been Razi).

In any case, I'm not at any point to make any conclusions. The Bible definitely does contain some contradictions but all historical and literary evidence shows that the Bible was textually very-well preserved.

That's enough for tonight so peace.


Azooz said...

Can you please give me your impresions of the debate itself? I'd really like to know what it looks like from your point of view, the editing was done by the Muslim students and they might be just as biased as I am.

>>if God is capable of preserving
>>the Quran, why isn't he capable
>>of preserving the Bible?
Mind that "if", it may lead to dangerous pride when combined with the word God - and some prohecies mention that a verifable and original Bible will be discovered some day. The same question also comes up when one considers the Torah and the other holy books before - if there had been no changed made the first book would have been enough, and there would not have been a need for other books, nor a need for book that could not be changed.

Searching For Truth said...

"if there had been no changed made the first book would have been enough, and there would not have been a need for other books, nor a need for book that could not be changed."

Even if the previous books had been unchanged, wouldn't the Quran have been necessary? I always interpreted Ayah 5:3 "This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion" to mean that the Quran is the final installment of God's truth and not simply a correction of the previous messages. I like to think of the various books of God as additional instruction throughout various stages in humanity's spiritual maturity. Just as you can't just start teaching a child calculus but must begin with basic arithmetic, God's message was delivered in installments based on what humanity was spiritually capable of understanding at that point in history.

I don't think I'm the only person who thinks this way. I doubt it's a concept I developed on my own, I assume it's an impression I've picked up along the way through all of my reading.

Azooz said...

The Quran contains nothing really new to a Christian or Jew, the wording might need some getting used to, but it is the same message. It is why some converts to Islam prefer the word reverts.

"Perfected your religion", that refers to the completion of the Quran itself becuase only a few verses were written after that one, and it also refers to the end of Mohamed's (pbuh) message and life on Earth for he died a few weeks later - but the messengers and prophets of God since Adam (pbuh) all knew the message and tried to convery it as best they could, the Quran just does it more elequently, simply and with more authority but it is the same mesage - nothing new.

Humanity's spiritual maturity was achived and perfected in the time of Adam (pbuh) - but humanity just need reminders now and then.

I agree with you that the installments idea goes naturaly with most subjects of human knowledge, but I do not think it applies to the spiritual. A person from the anceint times might not know calculas or basic mathamatics but might be more spiritual than anyone liveing today, bcause much of our spirituality is instinctive.

The Quran calls it (Fitra) meaning given or internal knowledge, like the instinct that makes a bee seek pollen and make honey, the spirituality is within each human and is complete as a guide of what to do and what not to do, all we have to do is get at it - but in the end, how we persue our spirituality and what we do with it, right or wrong, is judged by God.

Anonymous said...

Hey there,

I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and respect and appreciate your continued struggle. As always, thanks for sharing. Hopefully, the truth will find you instead of you having to search for it. Sometimes we don't find what we're looking for until we rest. You're in my prayers...