Answering a Muslim Critic
This week I received an e-mail from a Muslim, Mr. Husain, that was severely critical of those who believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. He reasoned that because the Bible was so discredited that our only alternative was to believe in the “only 100% purely existing religion in this world” which “is Islam!” He also advertises his website that he calls the “Niche of Truth.” I wish to examine in this article the assertions Mr. Husain presents that led him to conclude that the Bible was so unreliable that “the truth as Jesus taught is unknown now!”
The Reality of Truth
I commend to everyone the honest pursuit of truth. Truth never fears investigation and a lover of truth will never run from an honest discussion. Those who follow Jesus Christ understand the real battle between truth and error. Jesus wants you to find the truth that will “make you free” (John 8:32). Jesus’ followers are instructed to “give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15). Any such defense must be based upon facts, not tradition, feelings or the threats of terror.
Do We Have an Accurate Bible?
Our Muslim critic brings these attacks upon the Bible:
- We do not have the original manuscripts (autographs) of the Bible.
- The original manuscripts were copied by fallible men and as a result every copy that we posses today contains errors. In fact, no two manuscripts are alike.
- Because these errors exist, then whatever was originally in the Bible is “unknowable” today.
- The copyists intentionally put their own “mischievous” beliefs into the text since the Bible records examples of sexual sins. One example he cites is that the Bible “displays lady's nude bath! (II Samuel 11:2-5).”
Admissions by Our Critic
Our Muslim critic acknowledges that Jesus, Abraham and Moses were prophets of God. He also acknowledges that when the original documents that comprise the Bible were written, that they were, in fact, the word of God. He asserts that copyists’ errors made these writings so unreliable that they are now “dangerous” and should be kept “under lock and key.” Let us compare the assertions and charges of this fallible man to the promises of Jesus. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
The Testimony of the Manuscripts
The original ancient texts had to be copied by hand in order to be preserved. There are no original manuscripts in existence. However, honest scholars can easily determine if the present Bible was transmitted accurately or if there was some conspiracy to later change the text. We have at least 5,366 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament in existence today, in whole or in part, that testify to the accuracy of the New Testament. There are nearly complete manuscripts that date from 280 to 350 AD and there is a fragment that is dated around 125 AD. For the Old Testament we have the Dead Sea Scrolls that were written around 100 BC, which include a complete scroll of the book of Isaiah, along with other ancient manuscripts.1 What do we find when these scrolls are examined and compared to what we have today?
When the text of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls was compared to what had previously been the oldest known text of Isaiah (written 900 years later), the two texts matched word for word with only minor variations.2 Jesus read from one of these texts of Isaiah in His ministry and called it scripture (Luke 4:16-21)! By doing so He gave His approval for the accuracy and authority of these scrolls produced by copyists.
Critics, like our Muslim friend, prey upon the ignorance of others when they talk about the “errors” in the manuscripts. The bulk of these differences are in spelling and word order that have absolutely no affect upon the meaning! For example:
“The king Herod” versus “Herod the king” and
“Jerusalem with Him” versus “all Jerusalem with Him”
are the common kinds of differences that exist in these manuscripts.3
If some men had developed a conspiracy to deliberately change the text, then there should be numerous examples of major differences in these manuscripts. These kinds of differences simply do not exist. In fact, it would have been impossible for any later conspirators to find all the manuscripts that were spread over several countries and then change them (in some cases parts of scripture were copied and buried with the bodies of Christians!). Because we have in our possession these vast numbers of accurate documents, we can be assured that there was no such conspiracy.
The only conspiracy that exists today is found in those that misrepresent the truth about the Bible so as to accommodate some latter-day prophet.
The Bible Tells the Truth
Our critic reveals his own bias against the prophets of the Old Testament when he attacks them for simply telling the truth about the failings of men that followed God. One of the examples he cites is of David and Bathsheba, which is simply a fact of history. David saw her bathing on her roof and, as a result, gave into temptation and sinned. He later was confronted, repented and was forgiven. What is dangerous about that? These and other examples cited by our critic as being added by “mischievous” men are, in truth, God’s words that warn us by example against such sin. In this our God also shows us the way back to Him.
Does our Critic Really Want the Truth?
Yes, truth is attainable, but many are offended by it. Rather than using existing cultural prejudices to judge God’s word or acting out of fear of those who would physically harm others that choose to find and speak the truth, I call upon this critic and all others to enter into an examination of the claims made concerning the identity of Jesus Christ. I will affirm that there is credible evidence that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If our critic wishes to affirm the existence of a latter-day prophet, I also will gladly participate in such a discussion.
I challenge everyone to answer this question asked by Jesus Himself: “But who do you say that I am” (Matthew 16:15)? This is a truth that we can know, if we are willing to pursue it and test it. Will you take up this challenge of Jesus? “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17).
Do you really want the truth?
Seeking to convince others to change their beliefs and, as a result, change their lives is a noble pursuit. The Apostle Paul converted many of the hearers that he reasoned with to become believers in Christ (Acts 14:1). Mr. Husain, a confessed Muslim, has attempted to convince me and others through an e-mail to accept his evidence and become a “true follower of only preserved divine revelation on the earth, Islam/Sunni.” So far we have examined the evidence he has used to attack the Bible and found it to be completely lacking. How does the Koran stand against the same kind of objections Mr. Husain brought against the Bible?
Do We Have the Original Manuscript of the Koran?
Mr Husain has asserted that the Koran is the “only purely original manuscript existing revelation on the face of earth for mercy and salvation.” Therefore the Koran could not have any problems with copyist errors. Asserting these things proves nothing, for anyone on earth that wishes to do so can test his claims. When we look at how the Koran came into being, a very different picture emerges from what our Muslim critic has said.
- The author of the Koran, Muhammad, could neither read nor write. He did not personally write one sentence of the Koran.4
- What he spoke was both memorized and “written down on pieces of leather, on pieces of parchment, on bones, on palm leaves, on stones, on boards, and on other things.”4
- After the death of Muhammad there was an effort made to collect and record his teachings in written form. At first, many were reluctant to do this because Muhammad never attempted to do this, nor did he give a commandment to have it done.6
- There were many differences in the texts produced through these efforts.5 The different versions were ordered to be destroyed by fire by the Muslim Caliph Uthman and one final text was presented.6
- No manuscript of the Koran from this period is in existence today. The earliest documents in existence are fragments that were written over 200 years after the final edition of the Koran.4
- Therefore the Koran we posses in fact came to us through copyists who were also “fallible men.”5
Why does our critic fail to mention these things? The same approach he used in his zeal to discredit the Bible would cast even greater doubts on the Koran! In truth the Koran itself would dispute his entire line of argumentation. Muhammad urged Jews to “hold fast by the Book” (Al A'râf 7:169-170), but how could the Jews “hold fast” if there was no reliable book available?
A Comparison of Jesus and Muhammad
Why not look at the New Testament and learn about the claims and teachings of Jesus and also look at the Koran and see exactly what was taught by Muhammad? Why is our Muslim critic and others like him so anxious to close the pages of the Bible to examination and only wish for you to read the Koran?
The Claims and Teachings of Jesus
The birth, life and death of Jesus were foretold in the writings of the Old Testament. How could such detail of His life be given hundreds of years in advance? Listen to the words of Jesus: “Then He said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory” (Luke 24:25-26)? “Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24: 44-45).
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and, as a result, freely accepted worship without rebuking the worshippers. When Jesus appeared to His disciples they “came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:9-10). Jesus appeared to Thomas and challenged him to "“Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”" (John 20:27-29).
Jesus claimed that the sacrifice of Himself on the cross would provide the only path to God. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).
The Claims and Teachings of Muhammad
- Muhammad claimed to be a prophet of God. “In the year 610 (believed to be the 26th of Ramadan), while in a cave on Mt. Hirah, Muhammad said that the angel Gabriel appeared to him and commanded him to recite (96:1-19). This recitation became the Qur'an.”7
- Muhammad claimed to work no miracles.4
- Muhammad claimed that the prophets of the Old and New Testament were from God and that that message had been put in writing.4
- “He said that the Day of Judgment was coming and that a man's works will be weighed on that day. Those whose good deeds out weigh their bad may, by Allah's grace, be saved and enter Paradise which is full of sensual pleasures.”7
How Can We Know What is true?
Jesus claimed that his identity would be known to all by the greatest of signs, His resurrection from the dead (John 2:20-22, Romans 1:3-4). When you weigh the evidence of the miracles in the ministry of Christ, the fulfilled prophecy of the Old Testament and the eyewitness testimony of the disciples (Acts 2:32, 36; I John 1:1-3), you can conclude that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.
What evidence has been presented by our critic to establish the credibility of Mohammad? There were no miracles worked by him, no fulfilled prophesies of him, he only claimed to have received a message from an angel. While he did affirm that the prophets of the Bible were genuine, those very prophets severely contradict the teachings of Muhammad. Why don’t you weigh the evidence and be the Judge?
A Final Warning
The God of heaven has given one message for mankind to submit to. Men have claimed that angels have spoken to them in every generation. Remember this warning: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).
I received an e-mail from Mr. Husain, a professed Muslim, under the subject title: If you do not know “the ever truth (Islam), verily, you would be eternally lost!” He obviously wants to convince me and others to become a Muslim. He begins by making numerous futile arguments to discredit the Bible. He then reasons that since the Bible cannot be trusted, the only other path that remains is to submit to the Koran. Interestingly, he provides no arguments to show the superiority of the Koran or the way of life it produces. He only gives the threat of eternal damnation as an incentive to become a Muslim.
There is a huge difference between winning the hearts of men and forcing their outward conformity. The one true God knows the hearts of men and how to win them. Ruthless governments, man-made religions and domineering individuals throughout history have captured others and intimidated them to outwardly conform to a random human standard. This kind of slavery causes the men under it to desperately look for a way of escape. For a few, however, this system provides a position of power from which they can cruelly dominate others and feed their own pride.
What is the nature of the one true God?
Mr Husain does mention that God is “gracious” and “merciful” but fails to give us any examples from the Koran of His nature. When men pervert God’s true nature and change it into an image of their own imagination, the results are disastrous. The Psalmist aptly warns of the consequences found in all forms of idolatry: “Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them” (Psalms 115:8). Let us examine both the teachings of Muhammad and Jesus as they pertain to the true nature of God.
Jesus displayed the love and mercy of God
Throughout His ministry, Jesus pointed to God’s love as the motivating power to change men. He emphasized the quantity of God’s love in His teaching and would ultimately demonstrate the magnitude of God’s love by sacrificing His own life to save mankind. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, Rom 5:6-8). Jesus gave men what they needed and not what they deserved—aptly demonstrating the purity of God’s love.
On one occasion Jesus’ disciples displayed a typical weakness found in men. In their anger, they wanted to call down “fire from heaven” to destroy a Samaritan village. “But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them”” (Luke 9:55-56).
Muhammad gave a law that reflects the nature of men
As you examine the life of Muhammad and his writings, you will find that he had contradictory attitudes towards those who rejected him as a prophet. Towards the end of his life he was openly hostile to those who could not consciously believe his claims. Hear his words as written in the Koran: “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom (5:33.8).” For those who want to argue about what Muhammad meant by these things one only need to look at the examples in his life. Consider this event in the life of Muhammad: “Because of the resistance to his proselytizing attempts, he returned to Friday as the day of worship. He began attacking Jews. At first it was one at a time; then later whole villages. After one Jewish town had surrendered, he had 700 to 1,000 men beheaded in one day, and all the women and children sold into slavery."8
Jesus showed the way to forgiveness and salvation
Jesus plainly showed that forgiveness was never within the ability of men alone. They need a Savior—one who could provide a sufficient sacrifice for sin. No Law system could provide forgiveness. While showing the way of truth and righteousness, the Law of God also convinces men of sin. Law alone could only condemn! Jesus gave Himself to meet the righteous requirement of God for forgiveness. When men understand the nature of this great gift and their hearts are melted by it, they will choose to give their lives to the One who gave His life for them. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:20-21).
Muhammad’s view of forgiveness and salvation
In the Koran salvation is wholly based on the efforts of men. "Muhammad utilized the Testament of Abraham to teach that a scale or balance will be used on the day of judgment to weigh good and bad deeds in order to determine whether one goes to heaven or hell (Suras 42:17; 101:6-9)."9 He also taught that sins could be covered by doing good deeds such as prayer and helping the poor. "And keep up prayer in the two parts of the day and in the first hours of the night; surely good deeds take away evil deeds this is a reminder to the mindful [11.114]."
In Islam there is no assurance of salvation. How good is good enough? How can you ever know if you have done enough good deeds to outweigh the bad? The only exception to this is the one who dies as a martyr in a jihad.10
Is there any wonder why men escape the present system of bondage to “paradise” by wearing explosives and detonating it among the “infidels?”
Those governments that are guided by Islamic law logically try to force people into praying and other good works. In some countries there are religious police that forcefully clear out the shopping malls and force everyone to go to the Mosque to pray at the designated time. Many have been beaten and imprisoned because they dared to resist such authority.
The spread of the Gospel and the spread of the Koran
Jesus gave a commission to His apostles to spread the gospel (good news) of His love so that men might willingly believe it and be baptized into Christ (Mark 16:15-16). When this simple message is preached, men respond. In Islamic countries the preaching of this powerful message is forbidden and Christian literature is banned. Their leaders know how powerful Jesus’ message of salvation is (Romans 1:16).
Islam has not spread because people read the Koran and are moved by it alone. This religion has spread by physical conquests. “That is still the objective of Islam. That conversion to Islam can be by persuasive means, or by intimidation, torture, and jihad.”10
The one true God wants us to choose to serve Him. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
What will you conclude?
Which message is from God and which message is from man? You alone must choose. One thing is certain; God will never force you to serve Him.
- Bruce, F.F. (1953), The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), fourth edition.
- The Reality of Copyists' Errors, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/608
- J. W. McGarvey (1886), Evidences of Christianity, Pages 13-15
- The Hutto – El Dareer Debate, Birmingham, Alabama October 21-25, 1974
- Edited by Ibn Warraq, The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book, Prometheus Books, 1998, http://debate.org.uk/topics/books/origins-koran.html
- Ney Rieber, The Compilation Of The Qur'an As Recorded In The Hadith, http://www.bible.ca/islam/islam-quran-changed-editing-process.htm
- Muhammad, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, http://www.carm.org/islam/muhammad.htm
- Dr. Robert Morey, "The Islamic Invasion”, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR
- Dr. Robert Morey, Islam: Truth or Myth? http://www.bible.ca/islam/islam-koran-fairy-tales-dr-morey.htm
- Silas, The Spirit of Islam, New York, Madrid, Beslan, http://answering-islam.org/Silas/spirit_of_islam.htm