THE BIBLE AND THE QUR'AN, cont.
AN HISTORICAL COMPARISON
JAY, A WEBSITE STUDY
Now that we have carried out a cursory study of the historicity for both the Qur'an and the Bible, it is important that we make some conclusions. What can we say concerning the veracity of these two scriptures in light of the evidence produced by the manuscript, document and archeological data at our disposal?
A) THE QURAN
Starting with the Qur'an, it is reasonable to conclude that these findings indeed give us reason for pause concerning its reliability. Manuscript, as well as documentary and archaeological evidence indicates that much of what the Qur'an maintains does not coincide with the historical data at our disposal which comes from that period. From the material amassed from external sources in the7th-8th centuries, we now know:
1) that the Jews still retained a relationship with the Arabs until at least 640 A.D.;
2) that Jerusalem and not Mecca was more-than-likely the city which contained the original sanctuary for Islam, as Mecca was not only unknown as a viable city until the end of the seventh century, but it was not even on the international trade route; 3) that the Qibla (direction of prayer) was not fixed towards Mecca until the eighth century, but to an area much further north, possibly Jerusalem;
4) that the Dome of the Rock situated in Jerusalem was possibly the original sanctuary;
5) that Muhammad was not known as the seal of prophets until the late seventh century;
6) that the earliest we even hear of any Qur'an is not until the mid-eighth century;
7) and that the earliest Qur'anic writings do not coincide with the current Qur'anic text. All of this data contradicts the Qur'an which is in our possession, and adds to the suspicion that the Qur'an which we now read is NOT the same as that which was supposedly collated and canonized in 650 A.D. under Uthman, as Muslims contend (if indeed it even existed at that time). One can only assume that there must have been an evolution in the Qur'anic text. Consequently, the sole thing we can say with a certainty is that only the documents which we now possess (from 790 A.D. onwards) are the same as that which is in our hands today, written not 16 years after Muhammad's death but 160 years later, and thus not 1,400 years ago, but only 1,200 years ago.
B) THE BIBLE
1) LITTLE HAS BEEN LOST OF THE ORIGINAL
As for the Bible, with the abundance of existing manuscripts (handwritten copies) of the New Testament (more than 24,000), we know little has been lost through the transmission of the text. In fact there is more evidence for the reliability of the text of the New Testament than there is for any ten pieces of classical literature put together. It is in better textual shape than the 37 plays of William Shakespeare which were written a mere 300 years ago, after the invention of the printing press! This is indeed surprising, considering the early period in which the manuscripts were compiled, as well as the flimsy material on which they were written. The fact that we have such an abundance of manuscripts still in our possession points to the importance the scriptures have held for the church over the centuries.
2) THE TEXT IS RELIABLE AND HAS THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD OF GOD
As far as we can know, the names, places, and events mentioned in the Bible have been recorded accurately so that what we have is the representation of what God said and did.
3) ONGOING DISCOVERIES CORROBORATE THE BIBLE
Besides the massive numbers of early New Testament documents, the Old Testament can also be substantiated by the Jewish community who continue to corroborate the proof for its accuracy, as well as documents such as the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls which give added weight to the claim that it has never been changed.
Even the Qur'an, possibly written during the 7th-8th centuries recognized the authority of our scriptures (see suras 2:136; 3:2-3; 4:136; 5:47-52,68; 10:95; 21:7; and 29:46). We also know that, outside of the few scribal errors, the historical events and personages are adequately correct, as they do not confuse names, dates and events, and in fact, surprisingly, continue to coincide with current archaeological findings. This is indeed significant, since with each successive year, ongoing documental and archaeological discoveries fail to divulge any historical contradictions. Instead they continue to corroborate what the Bible has been saying for 2,000-3,000 years (examples such as the Ebla tablets, or the newly discovered tomb of the priest Caiaphus give continuing credibility to the scriptures historical trustworthiness).
Therefore, the testimony of the historical evidence is that the Bible and not the Qur'an can be trusted as an accurate and reliable historical document. While we continue to unearth data which substantiates the Bible's accuracy, we likewise unearth further data which erradicates the validity for the Qur'anic account. If a scripture claims to be a revelation from God, it must prove its claim by establishing its historical credentials, to the extent that even a third party can agree upon the evidence provided. This the Bible and not the Qur'an does adequately.
We must also know that the Bible is unique? Consider: Here is a book written over a 1,500 year span (about 40 generations), by more than 40 authors, among whose number were found: kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars, a herdsman, a general, a cupbearer, a doctor, a tax collector, and a rabbi. It was written on three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe, and in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Its subject matter includes hundreds of controversial topics, yet from Genesis right on through to Revelation the authors all spoke with harmony and continuity on the theme of the unfolding story of "God's redemption of humanity."
If God truly created the world for His pleasure, He would have created it to work to a pattern. This pattern we would expect to find revealed in His Word; as indeed we do, not only in the life of Jesus, the incarnate Word, who came and dwelt among us, but in the truth of the Gospel which was found in His teaching and later written down by His apostles. It is therefore not surprising that many cultures and governments even today continue to follow its precepts, laws and institutions, even though they do not necessarily adhere to its authorship.
It should not surprise us then that the Bible continues to be the source of God's revelation to His creation, for families and communities around the world, and that, according to the latest statistics, the Bible and not the Qu'ran is uncontested as the most popular book ever written. The statistics prove that it is read by more people and published in more languages than any other book in the history of humanity, so that even now "one copy of the Bible is published every three seconds day and night; or 22 copies every minute day and night; or 1,369 copies every hour day and night; and 32,876 copies every day in the year, and so on...".
It is logical, then, that Christianity, because it holds the repository of Biblical principles and thinking, is the fastest conversion-growing religion in the world today. What better testimony could one ask to demonstrate the Bible's claim to be the truly revealed and inspired Word of God.
LIST OF FOOTNOTES:
SECOND STUDY ON THE QUR'AN