When did people begin to question the accuracy and authenticity of the Bible manuscripts?
No one attacked or questioned the authenticity of the Bible until 1046 AD. That is more than 400 years after the death of Mohammed.
Never underestimate the power of that historical fact. It means that this issue was never raised by the one person who created Islam. He never went on the attack against Jews and Christians for adulterating the written word and sacred writings they had and used.
Mohammed believed that the existing Bible in his time was authentic:
And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed [the message], so ask the people of the message if you do not know. Sura 21: 7
How could he send them to the people of the message if the message was corrupted by them? It is unthinkable.
The first Islamic scholars, and many of those who followed them refused to believe that the Torah, the Injil and Zabur had been modified. According to several experts, the Koran claims that the Holy Scriptures were badly presented, but not altered.
Sura 2: 75 says:
…they distort the Torah after they had understood it while they were knowing?
Imam Baydaoui, commenting on this says, “… distorted means that they misunderstood it and explained it as they wished.”
يقول الإمام البيضاوي “أفتطمعون أن يصدقونكم (أي اليهود) وقد كانت طائفة من أسلافهم يسمعون كلام الله أيالتوراة ثم يحرفونه … أي يؤولونه ويفسرونه بما يشتهون … من بعد ما عقلوهأي فهموه بعقولهم ولم يبق فيه ريبة.”
In his commentary, Imam Bukhari explains Surat 4:46 as follows: “… to move words from their normal place … means to interpret them in an evil way.”
ويقول صحيح البخاري: “يحرفون الكلم عن موضعه أي يزيلونه وليس أحد يزيل لفظ كتاب من كتب الله تعالى, ولكنهم يؤولونه على غير تأويله”.
You can read similar remarks made by Imam Razi. The point is this, none of these Suras are about the corruption of the text, but of twisting and misinterpreting their meaning.
In the time of Mohammed, some so-called Christians had stopped reading the Bible. Instead of the Word of God, they followed the traditions created by men. It is true that they had misinterpreted the Bible. The Holy Scriptures hadn’t been altered. They had been forgotten. However, throughout history, true Christians have loved, protected and practised the Word of God.
The testimonies of the Koran and Muhammad
I do not need to rely on the Koran to prove the truth of the Bible, however, I find it relevant that the Koran often speaks favourably of the Bible. It says that the gospel, the Injil contains “direction and light?”
And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. Surah 5:46.
If the Gospel had been altered at the time of Mohammed, how could he the Koran say that Muhammad believed that the Bible that was circulating in its time was quite authentic?
In Surah Jonah [Yunus] 10.94 Mohammed (and thus all Muslims) was ordained to consider the Bible as the first source of revelation:
فإن كنت في شك مما أنزلنا إليك فاسأل الذين يقرؤون الكتاب من قبلك لقد جاءك الحق من ربك فلا تكونن من الممترين
So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters. Surah of Jonah, 10.94; cf. Sura 21.7, Added Italics.
Here, Allah commands Muhammad to consult the Jews and Christians who read the Book, that is, the Bible. In response to any questions he might have this verse encourages Mohammed, and through him, all Muslims, to refer to the Bible. Remember that the Christians and Jews share the first part of The Bible, the Old Testament. I am saddened that many of my Muslim friends tell me that it is no longer necessary to read the Bible, for the Koran has superceded it! What then is to be done with this Sura?
Dear Muslim friends, what about you? If Muhammad was advised to check with the people of the book, it goes without saying that every Muslim since has the right and duty to refer to the Bible.
“And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message].
So ask the people of the message if you do not know.
Surah The Bees [Al-Nahl] 16.43, italics added.
There are several passages in the Qur’an which confirm that the Torah and the Gospel were available authentic time of Muhammad. Why not note them if you read the Koran. There are many of them.
And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” – Surah The Spider [Al-Ankabut], 29.46 (italics added)
“Say, “O People of the Scripture, you are [standing] on nothing until you uphold [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been revealed to you from your Lord.” Sura, The Table served [Al-Ma ‘ida] 5.68.
This last Sura illustrates very well the fact that Jews and Christians possessed the Word of God well before the Writings of the Koran. And since God had commanded them to obey this Word, how could they have done so if the Book, the Bible, had not been worthy of trust? If Mohammed considered it already corrupted, why would he even consider sending people to read it and live by it?
Mohammed knew many believers in the books of Moses that he read. Ibn Katir (the 18th century scholar) in his commentary on the Koran, on this subject writes:
“According to Abu Dawud, Ibn Umar it is reported that a group of Jews came to invite the Messenger of Allah to Qu’ff. So he visited them. Once there, they said to him: ‘O Abu Al-Qasim, one of our men committed adultery with a woman. Pronounce your judgment on them. ‘They placed a cushion for the Messenger of Allah who sat on it and says’ Bring the Torah’. They brought it to him. He then removed the cushion from under him and placed the Torah on it saying: ‘I believe in it (the Torah) and in the One who revealed it. ‘” Click here for the reference
This should silence those who still contradict the evidence of Islamic history and continue to argue that the Koran or Mohammed say that the Bible has been corrupted and falsified.