Is The Bible Corrupted?
One of the most common arguments voiced by Muslims toward Christians is the issue of scriptural integrity. Muslims will argue that the Bible has been corrupt or lost, that the original gospel given to Jesus is no longer available or trustworthy. According to Islam, the Qur'an had to be sent to mankind to correct and affirm these previous scriptures which had become corrupt.
The question Muslims must answer, however, is whether there is any evidence that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, have changed from the time the original authors penned the words. Since Islam is the entity making the claim of corruption, the burden of proof is on Islam to supply evidence of corruption. When we look at the evidence, what do we find?
The Qur'an Says No!
While I do not give any authority to anything the Qur'an says, Muslims do, and even they must admit the Qur'an speaks of a scripture given to the "people of the book" (Jews and Christians). The Qur'an tells Muslims to consult these people to find out what their scripture contains.
- Qur'an 10:94 - But if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to you, ask those who read the Book before you...
- Qur'an 4:136 - O you who believe! Believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book which He has revealed to His Messenger and the Book which He revealed before...
- Qur'an 29:46 - Argue not with the People of the Book unless it be in a way that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which has been revealed unto us and revealed unto you...
- Al-Bukhari quoted the Qur'an itself (S. 3:72, 78) to prove the text of the Bible was not corrupted.
There is no evidence Muhammad considered the Bible to be corrupt? Would Muhammad command Muslims to consult a corrupt scripture?
God is able to protect his revelation
- Qur'an 10:64 - There is no changing the words of Allah; that is the mighty achievement.
- Qur'an 6:34 - ...and there is none to change the words of Allah
- Qur'an 6:114-115 - Shall I then seek a judge other than Allah? And He it is Who has revealed to you the Book (which is) made plain; and those whom We have given the Book know that it is revealed by your Lord with truth; therefore you should not be of the disputers. And the word of your Lord has been accomplished truly and justly; there is none who can change His words.
- Qur'an 50:29 - My word shall not be changed...
- Isaiah 40:8 - The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
If Muslims believe the prior revelations given to Moses, David, and Jesus were also from Allah, then it stand to reason that these prior revelations would also be protected from corruption by Allah, and not simply the Qur'an as Muslim apologists assert. If Allah was unable to protect his previous revelations from corruption, he is a very weak god.
Where did the idea of corruption come from?
(Data from Hans Wijngaards, Can We Trust the Gospels," Catholic Truth Society, 1985)
- In the first four centuries after Muhammad, no Muslim scholar seriously contended that the Gospel texts were not authentic.
- Historical studies of Muslim apologetics show this idea originated with ibn-Khazem (d. 1065). He presupposed the Qur'an to be true, so any conflicts with the Bible he assumed must be due to corruption of the Bible!
- First to make the statement "The Christians lost the revealed Gospel except for a few traces which God has left intact as an argument against them."
- Later scholars accepted this argument uncritically and embellished it. It has become a fixed ingredient of Muslim apologetics.
What Kind of Evidence Is There?
- Luke 1:2 - just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us...
- Acts 2:22 - "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-
- Acts 26:26 - For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.
Hostile Accounts (External Witness)
- Thallos: Greek historian (52 AD) mentions the darkness that occurred at the death of Jesus, just as recorded in Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, and Luke 23:44. Thallos certainly was no friend of Christians; he attempted to attribute the darkness to a solar eclipse, a natural phenomenon, rather than a miracle as scripture and tradition proclaimed. Julius Africanus rebuffed Thallos' argument years later by noting that Jesus was crucified during Passover, which occurs during a full moon. A solar eclipse cannot occur during a full moon.
- Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 A.D.): This respected Roman historian had a disdain for Christians, calling them believers "in a most mischievous superstition." Nevertheless, Tacitus confirms that this "sect" was formed from followers of "Christus," who suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberias at the hands of Pontius Pilate" just as it is recorded in the gospels.
- Suetonius: Roman historian, wrote in The 12 Caesars that Christians (followers of Chrestus) were expelled from Rome by Claudius, as we find recorded in Acts 18:2.
- 5,686 Greek manuscripts, some from within one generation of the originals
- 10,000 copies of Latin Vulgate
- 9,300 copies in other languages: Syriac (350), Coptic (100+), Armenian (2,587), Ethiopic (2,000), Arabic (75), others.
- Complete copies of the Bible, from AD300-350, fully 300 years prior to Muhammad and the Qur'an
-- Codex Siniaticus
-- Codex Alexandrinus
-- Codex Vaticanus
- Dead Sea scrolls: Discovered in 1947 by Bedouin goat herders; intact copies of most OT books, dated circa 150BC. Established credibility and accuracy of manuscript copying: matched with >99.5% accuracy next oldest extant mss, Masoretic text used for KJV translation and dated circa 900AD. In other words, over a span of >1,000 years of copying, the Bible was copied with remarkable accuracy! God's word has been preserved!
Quotations of Early Church Fathers
36,289 Quotations from all 27 books of the NT, able to reproduce the entire NT except 11 verses!
- Clement of Alexandria(150‑212AD) = 2,406 quotes
- Tertullian (160‑220AD) = 7,258 quotes
- Justin Martyr = 330 quotes
- Irenaeus = 1,819 quotes
- Origen = 17,922 quotes
- Hippolytus = 1,378 quotes
- Eusebius = 5,176 quotes
2,135 Lectionaries, used in church liturgy
What The Experts Say
- Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum: "The interval, then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."
- B. F. Wescott and F. J. A. Hort: "If comparative trivialities such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like are set aside, the works in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly mount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament."
The Muslim Problem
- Muslims can claim the Bible is corrupted, but just a few simple questions will show this is nothing more than a vain attempt at reconciling the significant differences from the Qur'an. Ask: Who corrupted it, when did it happen, how was it changed, what did the original say? The Muslim will have no response, because there is no evidence. In fact, the available evidence shows just the opposite, that the Bible is intact and unchanged from when it was penned originally. We can trust the Bible, God's word.
- Muslims are asking us to accept that someone was able to change all 5,686 manuscripts, 10,000 separate copies of the Latin, 9,300 manuscripts in other, multiple languages, three fully-intact copies of the Bible, and 36,289 quotations from the writings of early church fathers of the first 100 years after Christ, all dispersed over a significant geographical area, and change them all at the same time and in the same manner so nobody would notice the changes. This is not only an absurd proposition, it is a statistically impossible feat! Muslims also want to assert the idea that Jews and Christians colluded in this corruption, but Jews and Christians were enemies of each other at the time and would have had no reason to cooperate. They are also asking us to accept that God cannot preserve His word, despite injunctions in the Qur'an to the contrary.
Bottom Line: The Bible Remains Intact, Just as it was written by the original authors!
What Are We To Think?
If the Taurat and Injeel had in fact been lost or corrupted during Muhammad's time, we would expect to find him warning his followers of this danger. Yet the Qur'an says nothing about the Bible being corrupt. Indeed, the Qur'an tells Muslims to ask the Jews and Christians about what their scripture contains!
No scholar in the field of textual criticism would dare make the claim that the Bible has been changed or corrupted from its original. The evidence is just too overwhelming. The sheer number of existing manuscripts and fragments, along with the early dating of these, provides abundant support for the veracity of today's Bible. No other written work of antiquity has the documentary support the Bible has.
Nor has any Muslim ever been able to produce evidence to support the common claim of corruption. If indeed the Bible has been corrupted or changed, it should be a simple matter to produce evidence for how the corruption occurred, when it occurred, why it occurred, and what the original said. The inability to produce such evidence speaks volumes.
Given the evidence in support of, and lack of evidence against the Bible, we must conclude that the Bible of today contains the same message as that of the original writers. God has indeed preserved his word, because none can change the words of God. Because God preserved His word, He must have a message to communicate to us, and it is that message which we must endeavor to read and understand. What is that message and what does it mean for us?
The Message in the Bible
The Bible is not one book, but a collection of 66 books written by 40 authors over a period of 1,500 years. Yet the Bible has a consistent message from beginning to end: how to restore the relationship that man had with God in the creation.
In the Garden, man and God had a perfect relationship. Man and nature lived in perfect harmony as well. But this perfection did not last long, because although Adam was born perfect, he was also given a free will. You see, God created us to enter into a loving relationship with Him, but forced love or programmed love is no love at all. Love must be a choice one makes. But having the freedom to choose also means we can choose the wrong thing. This is what happened to Adam; he chose to disobey God. Thus, Adam's perfect relationship with God was destroyed. God wants that relationship back, but again, it must be by choice. God will never force Himself on anyone.
God has always provided a way for that relationship to be restored. In the Old Testament, the old covenant required a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of people, and it is only through atoning for sin that our relationship with God can be restored. God continuously called his children to repent and restore that relationship.
In the New Testament, Jesus instituted the new covenant as he sacrificed his own blood for our sins. It is through the shed blood of Jesus that our sins can be forgiven, but it is a choice each person must make. God wants a relationship with you. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through me." Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you and to forgive your sins.