It is a widespread attitude among serious Muslims to believe that they sin against God simply by touching a Bible.
They have been taught that the sacred writings of Christians have been changed and falsified and are therefore are counterfeit, and therefore Bibles are contaminated.
Here is an example of what an instruction manual tells them:
“The previous divinely revealed have suffered many distortions, additions and deletions, as Allah has spoken of in the Koran. It is therefore not permissible for Muslims to read them or to cast a single glance at them, unless the person is well-educated and has the motive only to point the finger at where these distortions and contradictions appear.” (Answers to Common Questions from New Muslims, collected by Abu Anas Ali ibn Husain Abu Lauz, p. )
Let us consider the serious nature of these accusations.
Have Jews and Christians changed the Bible?
Did Jews or Christians really change their Scriptures before the birth of Islam? Did Muhammad really say that there were distortions, additions and deletions in the Bible? Do Jews and Christians now only have such a distorted version of their Scriptures that no one can find the way of God through them?
Let us consider whether this charge against those who believe the Bible has any reasonable foundation. We will consider a number of issues.
1. Severe warnings
Jews and genuine Christians love their scriptures and know them well. They fear God, and would never allow anyone to change them. For them, it would be a crime to add or remove, change or adjust anything found on the page of the sacred text. There are severe warnings in the Bible against those who might be tempted to do so; Thus, in the Torah, the prophet Moses (Musa) commands:
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Torah, Deuteronomy 4:2)
Five centuries later, Solomon (سليمان) includes the Proverbs of Agur in his writing saying:
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)
The Apocalypse, which is sometimes called the Book of the Revelation, the final book of the Bible, ends with these solemn word of Jesus:
“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (The Injil, Revelation 22: 18-19)
These warnings are clear, and no true Jew or Christian would have dared to disobey them, for fear of exposing themselves to the wrath of God. It is completely unreasonable to say that Christians would deliberately defy God, whom they say they love and trust.
2. An impossible conspiracy
It is important to know that the first part of the Christian Bible, called the Old Testament, contains the Psalms (Zabur) and the five books that constitute the Torah of the Jews. If these writings were falsified, it could only have been the product of a conspiracy fomented between Jews and Christians since both groups refer to these books. Is that what happened?
It is unthinkable that Jews and Christians could agree to change their Scriptures together. On the contrary, history shows that Jews and Christians have had profound doctrinal differences, that they have opposed each other, and have never succeeded in speaking with the same voice in matters of religion. In reality, the Jews honour their Scriptures, but deny that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They reject the teaching of the prophets that the Messiah would be a Divine Person, or that the Messiah would come to die as a substitute and sacrifice.
The Jews would have been the first to want to suppress all announcement of Jesus in their Scriptures, as the verse that speaks about the birth of Jesus:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.(this means: God with us) Isaiah 7:14.
When the Old Testament, preserved by the Jews, spoke of the birth of the Messiah, their scriptures, which Christians accept and love, say this:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
Both of these two predictions about the Messiah by the former prophets announce that a child will be born, but that this child is more than a mere man. Isaiah says he will be called Immanuel, which means God with us. Micah says that the child born in Bethlehem, even though he would be a king, had existed from everlasting. We all no that no Jew believes that Jesus is both God and Man. If they were willing to change the Bible they are more likely to have deleted these statements than added them. But remember this, there is absolutely no way that they would conspire with Christians to allow them to add statements which lead Christians to believe things which they thing are abominable blasphemies.
The Jews hoped for a Messiah who would be a great political leader, and who would free them from the Roman occupation. They did not want to know that, according to their own Scriptures, the promised Messiah was to come, not to free them from the national problem of domination by a foreign power, but to deliver them from the greatest personal problem of the domination of their own sin. This “version” of a Messiah who comes to save from sin did not suit them. And yet their scriptures announced that the Saviour was coming to settle the problem of sin by taking it upon himself and undergoing its just and proper punishment. Thus the prophet Isaiah foretold in a surprisingly precise manner the coming of the Messiah and his mission, and this seven hundred years before his birth:
“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.” Isaiah 53: 4-9.
If there was any passage of the Scriptures that the Jews would probably want to modify, it is this prophecy of Isaiah 53. Alex, a Jewish friend, told me that during He had not once heard the rabbi read Isaiah 53. When he first heard about the prophecies about Jesus, he promised to make a study of it and compare it with what the New Testament, the Injil says. Imagine his astonishment! he had to conclude that Jesus was trulythe Messiah of which his own Scriptures spoke!
Since then, he has become a disciple of Jesus.
3. Respect for the Scriptures
Let us pretend for a moment that Jews and Christians have been dishonest enough to want to change the Bible. What would they have done? Where would they begin?
They would surely have begun by removing all that was not to their advantage and which could have given them a negative image. For example, for the Jews:
“The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.” Deuteronomy 7: 7
This is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the LORD; Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, Turn aside from the path, Cause the Holy One of Israel To cease from before us.” Isaiah 30:9-11
The existence of these verses, even in contemporary editions, demonstrates that the content of the Bible was respected, even when it did not suit everyone. No one has ever proposed “suppressing anything that could tarnish our image.” We all want people to think well of us. The Jews would never want the world to read of them again and again rebelling against their God, and yet their Scriptures describe this feature of their life. They haven’t torn out those pages, or ‘air brushed’ them out to avoid the embarrassment of people seeing what they have really been like from Abraham’s mistakes, Moses’ failures, through David’s great sins, and then their national rejection of God’s words to them.
It is distinct peculiarity of the whole Bible not to hide any fault, even from the prophets or the apostles, or even the greatest Bible heroes. If their weaknesses are still exposed on the pages of the Bible, it must be because no one has removed them. There is no evidence that the Bible has been changed in any way.
4. The high number of Bibles in circulation
If the New Testament had been falsified before the seventh century, or even shortly after, the people trying to make a counterfeit Bible would have had a serious problem! They would have had to change thousands of Greek manuscripts which existed in hundreds of places around the world. The y would have had to insert or delete their changes in the thousands of translations then existing. Also, if that isn’t difficult enough, they would have to change all the quotations in other documents dating from the end of the first century right up to the present.
The idea is completely implausible, let alone absolutely impossible to put into effect.
Imagine that the original handwritten copies of a book written by Mr. Abdul-Aziz had been preserved by several people in a certain city. Some of those people are your ancestors. Now imagine that these copies were found to be identical to each other, and had been copied faithfully from the autograph, that is, the actual document that Mr. Abdul-Aziz wrote with his own hand.
Now let us travel forward in time and imagine a third scenario. Several centuries later, in your time, there is someone who says that Mr. Abdul-Aziz’s book has been altered, adapted, corrupted, and changed over those centuries. It was done a little here and a little there, and therefore the current printed editions were no longer trustworthy.
Now, you possess the original, transmitted down the generations from father to son. Using this first copy, quoted above, you could question this person who thought the current editions were untrustworthy. You could say, “Wait, I have the first edition with me, we will compare, show me then the falsifications on the editions current!”
Each and every copy of the original could be compared with it to see how, when where and even who and why any changes had taken place. If there was no evidence of change then surely the accuser must back down and admit they have been mistaken.
The same is true of the Bible. The copies of the original manuscripts, transcribed carefully and minutely, circulated in great numbers at the presumed time of the falsification. If someone wanted to alter the text, he would have had to go from house to house and retrieve every copy, and every copy of every translation. He would have to travel in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to accomplish his evil task. That person must then consistently alter the content of each copy. It would also have been necessary to modify all the existing quotations of the Christians who wrote and quoted the Bible in their writings from the end of the first century onward.
Is this even a remotely possible undertaking? No!
Even if a copy or translation had undergone some alteration, the comparison with the other documents in circulation would have made it immediately possible to the error. With thousands of documents saying the same thing, a fraud would be easily discovered. Yet, what do we discover? We discover that the copies of the originals, the translations and the quotations in the earliest writings are completely consistent. In an unbiased court of law the decision would be clear. No one has changed the original documents of the Old and New Testaments.
5. Archaeological confirmations
Very often, the historical details of the Bible have been confirmed by archaeology. For instance, one discovery of great interest has been made of the tablets of the kings of Assyria discovered during the excavations of the city of Nineveh. They are engraved clay plates dating from the 8th century BC They bear the mention of the military expeditions led by the Assyrians against several kings of Israel. The names of these kings, as well as the quantity of gold and silver they hde to pay in tribute, are listed. Until these discoveries, the Bible alone mentioned the names of these kings and, as a result, some claimed that they were legendary!
As for the New Testament, the names of contemporaries of Jesus, such as Herod the Great (king of Judea and Samaria), Pontius Pilate (Roman Governor) and Caiaphas (High Priest) have been shown to be completely in agreement with the names and dates mentioned in the Bible.
These are just two of the countless discoveries made in the Near East that highlight the accuracy of the historical references in the Bible.
According to Dr. Nelson Glueck, Of the most recognized archaeologists: “It can be affirmed formally that no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted a biblical text. Many archaeological finds confirm the historical statements of the Bible either in outline or even in specific details. (Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (New York: Grove, 1960), 31.)
6- The Unity of the Biblical Message
As the writing of the 66 books of the Bible has spanned over a period of more than 1,400 years, and is the work of some forty authors of diverse social and cultural backgrounds, originating from three continents and using three different languages, one might expect to find inconsistencies and contradictions between them, both in their views of God, man, creation, culture, as well as salvation and life.
What is striking in this collection of 66 books combined in one book, the Bible, is that it shows not just a general unity, but a consistent and specific unity. Throughout the long historical period covered by the Bible, it can be seen that the descriptions of God, Man, salvation, heaven, hell, and any other area the scriptures touch on never contradict each other.
The Jewish scriptures, as they are thought to be, point forward to a promised Saviour, sent by God who would offer His life as a sacrificial substitute for sinners. The Christian scriptures, as they are thought to be, look back to the fulfilment of that promise. Abraham’s faith looked forward to the coming Messiah. My faith looks back to the actual Messiah.
As we learned earlier. The Old and New Testaments are two lips, but they speak with one voice concerning our God and our relationship with Him through the sacrifice of the Saviour promised to Adam, Abraham, Moses and David, along with all the other former prophets.
If there are differences in form or style, which is normal for a book written over more than a millennium, there is no substantive difference. This unity, this cohesion of the contents of the Bible would have been broken if it had been falsified.
Of course, malicious people always end up finding in the Bible what they want to find. They twist statements to create imaginary contradictions and inconsistencies, but in many cases. These contradictions are only apparent and fail completely when they are viewed within their context. Many have biased reasons why they must find contradictions. One person put it this way, “The problem with the Bible is not that it contradicts itself, the problem is that it contradicts us!” If I believe certain things about God, or if I follow a religion that differs from the Bible, I have a problem. I either have to say that I have totally rejected the Bible, and have invented a new religion, or I have to say that my teachings are true and where they differ from the Bible, it is the Bible that has been changed.
Christians have always accepted that very minor, accidental spelling errors have passed from one copy to another. Yet, because we have so many manuscripts, we know that what we have today is almost to the word exactly what was originally given.
7. God preserves his Word.
In English we sometimes say that people both want their cake, and they want to eat it. People want to use an argument that defends their own position, but they refuse the same argument to others. This is precisely the case with the argument used by Muslim scholars about the Koran. They argue that God preserved it from corruption. They argue and assert that God would never allow His word to be corrupted.
Although they then accept that the Torah and the rest of the Old Testament, and the Injil were written down and were God’s word, they astonishingly argue that God could not and did not prevent men from corrupting these sacred writings.How can they assert that God prevents it for one book but doesn’t for the others? It is a complete contradiction in their thinking.
As a mu’min (a believer in God), I can not conceive how The Word of God could have been changed by ignorant, weak, inconsistent humans. God, the Creator of all things, the Almighty, the Omniscient has inspired. Since he is God, he has all power to preserve his Word from all corruption and change. This is what the prophet David (Dawud) says in Zabur:
Jesus confirms it with these words:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. Matthew 24:35
If “the Word of God abides forever” then God cannot permit his written revelation to be altered. Throughout the centuries, God has remained faithful to himself, what he has declared remains unchanged.
What can we say to those who say the Bible has been changed? We ask them to show us:
Who did it?
When was it done? And we know that Mohammed never said that it had been changed, so they must show where it was changed after the days of Mohammed.
Why was it done?
Where was it done? Show us the changes!
The one who says that the Bible has been changed is in conflict with history, reason and theology!
They do not realise they are not only arguing inconsistently with their own position regarding the Koran, but they are making a statement about God. They are saying that He did not, and therefore could not, prevent evil men from adding to or deleting from the word which He had given to mankind.
I, in the same way as every Christian of former ages, believe in the God who inspired, confirmed and protected His Word. I would never risk incurring His infinite wrath by tampering with His inerrant and infallible word. Let those who claim that the Bible may have been falsified examine and consider where the true blasphemy is. Those who always seem to have that word in their mouth may well discover that they are the most guilty of it. In saying this, I am not referring to Mohammed (the prophet of Islam), for I am convinced that he never mentioned that the Bible had been falsified in the sense claimed by Muslims today .
I return to my previous statement. The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, but it most certainly creates this problem: it contradicts you and me. It exposes our errors and sins. But, thankfully, it also speaks of God’s answer. The promised Messiah and His sacrificial death for sinners is the central and consistent theme of both the Jewish and Christian sacred books, the Old and New Testaments.