Discussions with a Muslim Friend - How has the Bible changed (or not) since Jesus' time?


(Mark Lupton) #1

I am talking to a Muslim friend who has a belief that the contents of the Bible have changed so much since Jesus’ time that it is now unreliable, and therefore the Bible’s description of who Jesus is and was is unreliable, and incorrect. What is a resource that will help me in my next discussion with him on this topic?

Thanks!


(Rami Halaseh) #2

Hello Mark,
I am going to address this quickly, but please feel free to reach out to me for more details.

One way to build your case is this:

  1. There are no verses in the Qur’an that accuse the Bible to be corrupted. All the verses Muslims use (often 11 verses) refer to what some Jews in the time of Moses used to do in interrupting the text of the Pentateuch incorrectly. Misinterpreting a text is a common problem in all religions including Islam.

  2. There are verses in the Qur’an that says the Bible cannot be changed (Q 5:48). The Qur’an testifies that the Bible in the time of Muhammad was the correct Bible (Q 3:3; 35:31; 5:43…etc.)

  3. Have you ever read the uncorrupted Bible? Would you like a copy?

This is a shortcut I often use with Muslims, and it often works.

Please keep in mind that there are so many other ways to address this issue, and this is only one of them.

Some people do not prefer to use the Qur’an in responding to Muslims, but I do not see a problem in that (cf. J. Scott Bridger Christian Exegesis of the Qur’an: A Critical Analysis of the Apologetic Use of the Qur’an in Select Medieval and Contemporary Arabic Texts. Pickwick 2015).


(SeanO) #3

I think @RamiHalaseh had a good approach. I especially like that it results in reading Scripture with the person you are reaching out to - the Word of God has power! Here is a video from Nabeel Qureshi and David on this exact question that you may find helpful.


1 John 5:7-8
(Mark Lupton) #4

Thank you both @RamiHalaseh @SeanO for your prompt and helpful replies. I will certainly update this thread with more questions and some updates.


(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #5

I’m encouraged by you engaging with your friend about this. @RamiHalaseh has good points, I do believe as well that using the sources they trust in can help to your advantage in your dialogue with them, and I encourage you to do so. @SeanO has given a good video as well. You can learn a lot of things about Islam from David Wood’s ministry. He’s foundational in Nabeel Qureshi’s conversion.

Personally, I would just like to show you some quotes to answer your question on resources that may help you in your discussion with your friend, aside from those already given.

For Negative Apologetics:

[1] Grand Central Question:

"Commentaries from some of Islam’s earliest authorities provide little support for the idea that the Qur’an teaches that the biblical text (as opposed to the meaning) was corrupted. Gordon Nickel conducted a detailed study both of the Qur’anic verses Muslims use to support the idea of corruption and of the works of Islam’s earliest and most well-known commentators, Muqatil ibn Sulayman and Abu Ja’far ibn Jarir al-Tabari, to see whether they understood the Qur’an to say that the biblical text had been changed.

Nickel concludes that these seminal Muslim thinkers were very reluctant to read the Qur’an as accusing the Bible of having been textually changed. Rather, they interpreted the Qur’anic verses as charges against Jews and Christians who allegedly changed the meaning of the text to hide supposed prophecies about the coming of Muhammad and certain God-given laws that they did not want to apply. And even these alleged changes were done around Muhammad’s time in the seventh century, well after the New Testament canonization. At least one Muslim scholar agrees that the Qur’an doesn’t teach biblical corruption:

Contrary to the general Islamic view, the Qur’an does not accuse Jews and Christians of altering the text of their scriptures, but rather of altering the truth which those scriptures contain. The people do this by concealing some of the sacred texts, by misapplying their precepts, or by “altering words from their right position.” However, this refers more to interpretation than to actual addition or deletion of words from the sacred books.

Not only does the Qur’an call the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel God’s word, but it also says in at least two places that “None can change God’s words” (Sura 6:115; 18:27). Islam’s most well-known commentator, Ibn Kathir, explains this verse:

Al-Bukhari [perhaps the most trusted early Islamic scholar], reports [that] Ibn ‘Abbas said that the [verse] means they alter and add although none among Allah’s creation can remove the Words of Allah from his Books. They alter and distort the apparent meanings. Wahb bin Munabih said, “The Tawrah and the Injil remain as Allah revealed them, and no letter in them was removed. However, the people misguide others by addition and false interpretation, relying on books that they wrote themselves. They say, “this is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah; as for Allah’s Books, they are still preserved and cannot be changed.

Every argument I had once used to convince Christians that the Bible had been corrupted was being dismantled one by one—by the very sources I relied on as a Muslim."

For Positive Apologetics:
[2] I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist

"How Accurate Is the Reconstruction?

In order to address the issue of accuracy, we need to clear up misunderstandings
many critics have concerning “errors” in the biblical manuscripts. Some have estimated there are about 200,000 errors in the New Testament manuscripts. First of all, these are not “errors” but variant readings, the vast majority of which are strictly grammatical (i.e., punctuation and spelling). Second, these readings are spread throughout nearly 5,700 manuscripts, so that a variant spelling of one letter of one word in one verse in 2,000 manuscripts is counted as 2,000 “errors.”

Textual scholars Westcott and Hort estimated that only one in sixty of these variants has significance. This would leave a text 98.33 percent pure. Philip Schaff calculated that, of the 150,000 variants known in his day, only 400 changed the meaning of the passage, only fifty were of real significance, and not even one affected “an article of faith or a precept
of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other and undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of Scripture teaching.”

No other ancient book is so well authenticated. The great New Testament scholar and Princeton professor Bruce Metzger estimated that the Mahabharata of Hinduism is copied with only about 90 percent accuracy and Homer’s Iliad with about 95 percent. By comparison, he estimated the New Testament is about 99.5 percent accurate. Again, the 0.5 percent in question does not affect a single doctrine of the Christian faith."


(Steve LePage) #6

I was having a conversation with my neighbor’s son last month and he told me that the original teachings of Jesus were of God, but that is not what is in our Scriptures.

According to what he was taught, the early Christians were so persecuted that the Gospels were not written until 80 years after the events by the disciples of the disciples of the disciples of the disciples. He had no idea that everything in the NT was written by either by an apostle or a companion of an apostle, so he was surprised by the time line…whether or not he believed me is a different story.


(Steve LePage) #7

You guys are all awesome, I’m so thankful I finally signed up for this site!

My neighbor sent me this video to argue against the Trinity. One thing that was made clear to me is how the verses that are quoted to supposedly disprove it are taken out of context.

The first Scripture taken out of context was Numbers 23:19 when God was responding to Balaam when Balak was trying a 2nd time to get him to curse the Israelites that were in the wilderness. The NIV reads: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

The second reference is Malachi 3:6 (they only use the first part of the verse), in which God is referring to why he has not judged and destroyed Israel for their sin.

When I first watched the video, which throws fast paced arguments at you, I didn’t have a response. It wasn’t until I slowed it down, considered each argument in light of the context of Scripture, that I was able to see the weakness of the arguments. Moral of the story…when someone starts quoting Scripture, make sure to take your Bible to see if that is really what it says!


(Jimmy Sellers) #8

When ever I see this question or questions like it being ask I remember Abdu Murray’s story of his collage years and how he was surprised that no one every challenged him about his claims against Christianity. I believe that there is enough to talked about in the Quran to challenge a Muslim to study for themselves what the Quran says without being antagonistic under the heading of “help me to understand what is being said in the Quran”.I don’t believe that Muslims are any better equipped to defend Islam that the average Christian is to defend Christianity.
Here is a good video from Acts 17 that helps illustrates the point.

I have included the verses from the Quran for reference.

  1. And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” Surah 29:46
  1. It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). 4. Then those who reject Faith in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty, and Allah is Exalted in Might, Lord of Retribution. Surah 3:3-4
  1. And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change His Words, and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than Him. Surah 18:27
  1. “Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures)—in the law and the Gospel—for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him—it is they who will prosper.” Surah 7:157
  1. Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. Surah 5:47
  1. Say: “O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord.” It is the revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord, that increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. But sorrow thou not over (these) people without Faith. Surah 5:68
  1. If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt. Surah 10:94

All verse from
The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an
Translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali

Ali, A. Y. (Trans.). (2004). The meaning of the Holy Qur’an.

I hope this helps.