THAT THE SACRED SCRIPTURES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT AND OF THE NEW HAVE NOT UNDERGONE CORRUPTION, WHETHER BEFORE OR AFTER MUHAMMAD'S TIME
WE have already seen that the Qur'an calls the Bible “the Word of God” (كلام الله, Surah 2:70), and that the Qur'an states more than once that God's words cannot be changed or altered. If both these statements are correct—and of that Christians have no more doubt than have Muslims—then it follows that the Bible has not been changed and corrupted either before or since Muhammad's time.
But this brings us to consider what the Qur'an actually does say, and what is the opinion of the leading commentators. These are not unanimous on the subject, yet it will be seen that they by no means heartily support the opinion of the uneducated.
In Surah 18 (Al Kahf), ver. 26, it is written: “And recite what has been inspired into thee from the book of thy Lord: there is no changer of His words.” Of course the Qur'an itself is referred to primarily, but the final statement concerns God's words in general. As the Bible is admitted to be God's Word, and the general includes the particular, it is evident that the Bible cannot be changed. Baizawi's comment is: “There is no one who can change or alter them, except Himself.” In Surah 10 (Yunus), ver. 65, we read: “There is no changing the words of God.” Baizawi says: “There is no altering His sayings, and there is no breach of His promises.” In Surah 6 (Al In'am), ver. 34: “There is no changer of God's words,” and ver. 115, “There is no changer of His words,” the same statement is made. It is true that in his note on the latter passage Baizawi speaks of the Torah as become corrupted (محرّف), but we shall soon see in what sense that expression is used.
Having studied the whole question, most learned Muslim theologians in India at the present day are convinced that the Books of the Old Testament and the New have not been changed (مبدّلة), altered (ّرة) or corrupted (محرّقة) in the sense in which the ignorant employ the latter word. In this view they are supported by Imam Fakhru'ddin Ar Razi. For instance, in his commentary on Surah 3 (Al 'Imran), ver. 72, in answer to the question, “How was it possible to insert corruption (التّحريف) into the Torah, when its celebrity among men was so great?” he gives an answer which should be carefully considered. He first says, “Perhaps this deed proceeded from a small company, for whom it was possible to agree upon corruption: they then presented what they had corrupted to some of the common people, and on this hypothesis the tahrif becomes possible.” But this is only an hypothesis, not this commentator's own real opinion, for he next proceeds to state the latter. “And in my opinion,” he says, “in explanation of the verse another method is more correct,—that the verses which proved Muhammad's prophetic office needed fixed attention and earnest thought, and the people used to produce concerning them confusing questions and observe objections: therefore those proofs were becoming doubtful to the hearers, and the Jews used to say, 'God's meaning in these verses is what we have mentioned, not what ye have mentioned.' This therefore is what was meant by 'tahrif' and ‘twisting tongues’” (Ar Razi, vol. ii, pp. 720, 721); see also his commentary on Surah 4:48: vol. iii, pp. 337 and 338, where he mentions the same two views. But he also mentions a third, viz. that, according to some, “They used to enter in unto the Prophet and ask him about a matter, and he would inform them so that they might grasp it: then, when they came out from with him, they corrupted (حرّف) his words.” According to this opinion, it was not Holy Scripture that the Jews corrupted, but Muhammad's answers to their questions which they falsely reported when they game out from his presence. If, however, we accept Ar Razi's own view, it was not the Scriptures which the Jews corrupted, but their own explanations of what the Scriptures said. Even this was done orally, and not in writing.
In his note on Surah 5 (Al Ma'idah), ver. 16, Ar Razi 1 relates a tale which shows that here also the Jews in reading aloud verses of the Torah (Deuteronomy 22:23, 24) “twisted their tongues” and substituted scourging for stoning, orally, not making any change in the sacred text. In his comment on Surah v, ver. 45, Baizawi also relates the same story, thus referring this verse also to the same incident. He explains the passage, “They corrupt the words from after their places,” by saying: “Deflect them from their places in which God placed them, either (1) verbally, by omitting them or altering their places, or (2) in meaning, by referring them to what is not their sense and applying them to what is not their application” (vol. i, p. 258). Now, if we wish to see which of these two explanations is the right one, all we have to do is to turn to Deuteronomy 22:23, 24, 2 in the Hebrew original or in any version, ancient or modern. There we find that the “Verse of Stoning” (آيَةُ الْرجِمْ) is still preserved there, just as the Qur'an and Traditions 3 show that it was in Muhammad's day. Hence we see that the Jews did not in this instance omit the verse or alter the words in their places. Of course the latter is the proper meaning of tahrif, only the “transposition” of the words took place orally, not in the written text of the Torah. Strangely enough the Verse of Stoning was once in the Qur'an itself, as far as we can learn from Tradition. 'Umar, we are told in the Mishkatu’l Masabih, 4 said: “Verily God sent Muhammad in truth, and He sent down upon him the Book, and of what God Most High sent down was the Verse of Stoning. The Apostle of God stoned, and we stoned after him, and stoning in the Book of God is justice upon him that hath committed adultery.” When the Qur'an was “collected” by Zaid ibn Thabit, this verse was omitted, lest it should have been said that 'Umar had inserted anything extra. 5 If we may believe 'Umar the Khalifah, any removal of words from their places (Surah v, ver. 45) that took place with reference to the Verse of Stoning occurred in the Qur'an, not in the Torah, and was done by Muslims, and not by Jews.
In the Qur'an the Jews are sometimes accused of “concealing 6 the truth” knowingly, and of “twisting 7 their tongues”, in giving an answer to the question what the teaching of the Old Testament on this subject was. They are also accused of “casting 8 the Word of God behind their backs”. Against them, too, the charge of tahrif, is brought in only four places: viz. in Surahs 2:70; 4:48; 5:16, 45. It must be noticed here that, whatever the meaning of this accusation is, it is brought against the Jews only, never against the Christians. This single fact at once leaves the New Testament free from all suspicion of having become corrupted (محرّف) before Muhammad's time or during his life. We must now consider finally in what sense the Qur'an accuses the Jews of tahrif, We have already seen what Baizawi and Ar Razi say in reference to all these four verses except the first (Surah ii, ver. 70). According With regard to this verse both of these commentators agree 9 that the tahrif mentioned in it consisted of a wrong explanation of the Torah and a concealment of what the Jews knew to be taught in it (compare Surah 6:91, where it is said that they had the Torah in writing, but that they showed only part of it and concealed part, or most of it). This was very wrong conduct, but it is a different thing from altering the text of the Torah. If we ask at what time the Jews were guilty of tahrif, Baizawi says it was in the time of the ancestors of those who were Muhammad's contemporaries; but Ar Razi holds that it was those who lived in Muhammad's time against whom the charge is brought. Both commentators mention the opinion of those who fancied that the Jews had purposely altered the Sacred Text; but neither of them accepts this idea as correct. Ar Razi puts the question, 10 “How is this possible in the Book? The exact number of its letters and its words had been summed up and handed down by continuous Tradition, and was well known in the East and in the West.” He remarks that perhaps it will be said that the people were few, and those who were well acquainted with the Book were very few, and therefore it was possible for this tahrif, to take place. But, rejecting this idea, he adds, “The meaning of tahrif is the introduction of vain doubt and wrong explanations, and the changing the word from its true meaning to a baseless sense by means of verbal tricks, as heretics do at this time of ours with the verses which contravene their own religion.” This is the view that he himself approves and supports with his authority. He therefore altogether exculpates the Jews from all suspicion of having changed the text of the Old Testament. When it is asserted therefore that the Qur'an states that the Torah is corrupted (محرّف), it should be remembered that this is not true in the sense in which the statement is made by the ignorant of our own time.
Hence any Muslim who affirms that the Old Testament and the New are corrupt (محرّف) in text, and no longer exist as they did in Muhammad's day, is contradicting the Qur'an, and thereby denying the truth of the book which all true Muslims believe to have been sent down by God Most High to Muhammad with the object of confirming 11 the Torah and the Injil. It is impossible to say that the Qur'an teaches both that the Torah and the Injil are true and inspired, and also that they have been so altered as to be no longer reliable; for to say this would be to accuse the Qur'an of self-contradiction. No believer in God who is the Truth (الحقّ) can believe that He sent down the Qur'an in order to confirm a corrupted book, and one which, in consequence of such corruption, taught false doctrine. The commentators whom we have quoted support our contention that the Bible had not become corrupted before or during Muhammad's time.
The only question which remains is, “Has it been corrupted since his time?” It is not difficult to answer this. The MSS. to which we have already referred, written in most cases long before Muhammad's birth, are those from which the copies of the Bible now in circulation are printed. Hence the impossibility of supporting the suggestion that since Muhammad's death either Jews or Christians have corrupted the Bible in any way.
But let us hear what is said on the other side. Among Muslims all the ignorant and some of their learned men who have not carefully studied this subject still fancy that the Bible as it now exists is corrupt. If they are asked when this corruption took place, they are not agreed as to their answer. Some say “before Muhammad's time”, some “after that”, some “both before and after”. To prove their point they have carefully picked out and repeated every foolish and unsupported accusation which has been brought against the Bible by unbelievers, by such pagans as Celsus, and by such heretics as the followers of Mani. These objections have long since been completely refuted. They do not therefore influence men of learning in the West, and it is impossible that really learned men among the Muslims should long continue to be deceived by them. It is sometimes said that certain Christians of the first few centuries accused the Jews of corrupting the text of the Old Testament. Some ignorant Christians did say that the Jews had altered the numbers in the ages of the Patriarchs given in Genesis 5 and 11, because it was found that some difference in these numbers existed between the Hebrew text and that of the Greek Septuagint Version. But it is not true (as has been asserted) that Augustine 12 shared this opinion. Now that the matter has been studied for some 1,400 years longer, no man of learning in the West believes that the Jews were guilty of corrupting their Scriptures either in these passages or in any others.
Some Muslim writers speak of the many different readings to be found in the Bible, and say that these prove the corruption of its text. But this argument is baseless. We have such a large number of Biblical MSS. in Hebrew and Greek and other languages that, when we compare them with one another, it is natural to find various readings. They are found in the same circumstances in all other ancient books too. But what is the nature of these various readings? Most of them are merely differences of spelling, as if in Arabic one book had صلَوة and another صلاة; one حيوَة and another حياة; one توريت and another تورات; one قيامة and another قيَمة. In other instances there are differences of verbal forms, such as those that so frequently meet us in the various readings given by the commentators on the Qur'an. For instance, Baizawi 13 gives us the following readings in the beginning of Surah 2 (Al Baqarah), ver. 100:—
|Common Text:||مَا نَنْسَخْ مِنْ آيَةِ أَوْ نُنْسِهَا|
|Ibn 'Amir:||&c. مَا نُنْسِخْ|
|Abdu'llah: 14||مَا نُنْسِكَ مِنْ آيةٍ أوْ نُنْسَخْهَا|
So also in Surah 2, ver. 285, Baizawi 15 gives various readings thus:—
|1. Common Text:||وَكُتُبِةِ|
|Hamzah and Al Kasai:||وَكِتَابِةِ|
|2. Common Text:||لاَ نُفَرّقُ|
Besides these, the leading Sunni Commentators admit various readings in many other passages: for example, in Surahs 6:91; 19:35; 28:48; 33:6; 34:18; 38:22. 16 These, however, alter the meaning in each case very slightly, and make no difference in the doctrine of the Qur'an. But what would Muslim theologians say if a Christian writer, because of these various readings, were to assert that the Qur'an had become corrupted? They would rightly say that the man who drew this conclusion thereby exposed his own ignorance and his bigotry. The same reply might be given to those who, because of various readings in the Bible, bring the like charge against it; but politeness prevents us from uttering such words regarding our opponents. There are many more various readings in the Bible than in the Qur'an, but the reasons for this are: (1) The size of the Bible is at least four times that of the Qur'an; (2) The Bible is much the more ancient; (3) The Bible was composed in three different languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, not in one only; (4) The readings in all the different ancient Versions are counted, though many of them are known to be merely errors of translators and not to represent a difference in the original text; (5) A vastly greater amount of care has been taken to collect the various readings in the case of the Bible than in that of the Qur'an; (6) The text of the Bible has never been rectified or edited by 'Uthman, as was that of the Qur'an, nor have we had a Marwan to burn the most ancient copy spared even by 'Uthman. 17 Taking into consideration all the various readings in the Bible, they do not change any doctrine of the Christian faith.
Commentators have occasionally found themselves unable to understand a word or a verse in the Bible. They have therefore fancied that there was in the text some error of a copyist, and have called it “corrupt” in the sense of مُصَحّف. Muslim controversialists, like Shaikh Rahmatu'llah, have erroneously translated this word by مُحَرْف, and have then asserted that Christian commentators admitted that the Bible was مُحرْفَ. Such an error requires only to be pointed out to be corrected. As an instance, let us take Daniel 3:2, 3, where in the Aramaic text the word תּפתּיא (تِفْتَايَيْ) occurs. It was found in no other book, its precise meaning and derivation were unknown. Hence several commentators said that the word was (مُصَحّف) due to an error of the copyists. But only a few years ago an Aramaic inscription was found in Egypt, in which this word occurs, and we have also discovered its derivation as well as its meaning. Hence we see how correctly the text has been preserved, even in case of a word like this.
Were such peculiarities 18 found in the Bible as the one that occurs, e.g. in Surah 20 (Ta Ha), 66, إنْ هَذِاَنٍ, some commentators would have suspected an error of the copyists for إنْ هَذَيْنِ. This suspicion might have led to an attempt to correct it, such as the attempt to which is probably due the reading يُفَرِّقُونَ in Surah 2:285, in place of ويُفَرِّقُ which some copies had instead of نُفرِّقُ, as Baizawi's commentary shows.
We are not now concerned with the various readings in the Qur'an, but we refer to them merely to illustrate what we say regarding those in the Bible. All the Biblical various readings of importance may be divided into three classes: (1) those caused by the carelessness or ignorance of a scribe; (2) those due to some defect in the MS. which was copied; (3) an attempt to correct what the scribe thought was a previous copyist's blunder, but which was not. No intention of corrupting the Sacred Text can be suspected. Heretics, it is true, did sometimes, to support their own peculiar doctrines, produce verses in their own copies of the New Testament which were not found elsewhere, or more commonly they asserted that certain verses which confuted their errors were not genuine. Yet in each case they really were themselves deceived, and did not intend to corrupt the text willingly and knowingly. But in any case Christians detected the error by consulting their own old MSS. In the same way, had any body of Jewish or Christian fanatics attempted to corrupt the Old Testament or the New by altering or omitting passages which seemed to refer to Muhammad, all other Jews and Christians in the world would have fiercely refused to accept the mutilated copies at the hands of these men, just as they rejected Marcion's attempt to omit the first two chapters of St. Luke's Gospel. The very fact that some heretics, long before Muhammad's time, tried and failed to corrupt the New Testament, shows the impossibility of the task.
Had some King or Emperor or other powerful ruler shortly after Moses' death collected all copies of the Torah, or of single chapters of it, and published a new edition of it, relying for some verses on men's memories, copying others from inscriptions on bones and pieces of wood; and had he then burnt all these and all earlier copies he could find, so as to compel men to use only the text he had caused to be compiled; we might then have found very few various readings in the Torah; but very little reliance could be placed on its correctness. If something similar had been done to all the books of the New Testament at the end of the first century, there would evidently be no way of proving that the new edition had not been corrupted by addition or omission. It would not be possible for a scholar to rely with perfect certainty on a single verse in the whole volume. But this did not happen to the Bible, thanks be to the Most Merciful God. We Christians have never had an 'Uthman. The Roman Emperors Galerius and Diocletian, being heathens, did endeavour to collect and burn all copies of the Sacred Scriptures, but Christians laid down their lives rather than surrender their books. Later persecutors often made similar attempts, and failed for the same reason. But had our books been all burnt, the Bible would not have perished, for Isaiah has said: “The Word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). In all ages very large numbers of Christians have learnt by heart much of the most important parts of the Old Testament and of the New, especially the Psalms and the Gospels. Hence the Word of God could not be destroyed, unless all Christians were destroyed also. During the persecutions in France in the sixteenth century, in many instances the clergy of the Reformed Church had to learn by heart whole books of the Bible, so that, even if their books were taken from them, they might still be able to draw the water of life from the wells of salvation for themselves and for their people. It is well known, moreover, that in all ages Jews and Christians have taken the greatest possible care of their Holy Books, prizing them more than life itself. Hence to say that at any time, whether before or after the Hijrah, they have become corrupted (محرّفة), whether intentionally or unintentionally, is to assert the occurrence of what is absolutely impossible. None but the ignorant and bigoted can bring such a charge against the Bible.
That this may be clearer than the sun at noonday, let us inquire what advantage to themselves had the Jews or the Christians to expect from corrupting their Sacred Books. They well knew that to attempt such a thing would be to sin against God and to bring down upon themselves grievous punishment, for this is taught both in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 4:2) and in the New (Revelation 22:18, 19). Moreover, they would thereby be destroying their own religion and leading astray from the way of salvation all their own children and children's children for ever. Had Oriental Jews and Christians desired to gain worldly advantages from Muhammad and his followers, they would have tried to introduce passages to support Muhammad's claims, instead of striking out such passages, as Muslims accuse them of doing. By rejecting Muhammad they were condemning themselves and their descendants to “give tribute out of hand and be brought low” (Surah 9:29), to occupy the degraded position of the unhappy Zimmis (نِمّي). Every now and then they knew that they were in danger of frightful massacres and of undergoing unutterable brutality, as at Adanah and its neighbourhood in 1909 A.D. For many centuries such awful scenes have been the natural result of these words of Surah At Taubah, as interpreted by wicked rulers and the ignorant multitudes. Had the Jews and Christians accepted Muhammad as a Prophet, they would not only have escaped all this cruelty and oppression, but they would also have shared all the worldly privileges belonging to Muslims. Instead of this they have clung to their ancestral faith, though they knew that in every mosque throughout the Ottoman Empire in the Friday prayer all Muslims express their hatred of them in these awful words: “O God, make their wives widows and their children orphans, and give their possessions to be a possession for the Muslims.” Is it not clear that, if either Jews or Christians had found in their Holy Scriptures any prophecies relating to Muhammad and bidding them expect and accept him when he came, they would gladly have become his disciples, and thereby gained the good things both of this world and of the world to come? Hence they had every inducement to endeavour to corrupt their Scriptures, not by omitting, but by inserting, passages relating to Muhammad. That such passages were not inserted is a proof that they did not and could not corrupt their Scriptures. To corrupt them by striking out verses which would have brought them great advantages, and by so corrupting them to condemn themselves to untold misery here and hereafter was not a thing likely to commend itself to either Jews or Christians. Nor can anyone who reflects on the matter believe that this was done, there being no motive whatever for it, and many against it.
But, had either of these religious communities plotted and endeavoured to change and corrupt their Scriptures, the other party would at once have detected and exposed the fraud. There was in Muhammad's time, as both before and after it, great animosity between Jews and Christians, and hence it is impossible to imagine an agreement between them to falsify the Old Testament. Had any one sect of Christians or Jews, or those living in any country, for instance in Arabia, all agreed to corrupt their Scriptures, then the other sects and all those in other parts of the world would have raised a great outcry against them for such a terrible sin. We have histories written by Jews, others by Muslims, others by Christians, and yet in none of these do we find any account of it ever being proved that such an attempt was made whether during Muhammad's time or after it.
Moreover, had any sect ever thought of the commission of this crime, its accomplishment would have been found absolutely impossible. For before the Hijrah the Christian faith had spread so widely that the greater portion of the population of Asia Minor, Syria, Greece, Egypt, Abyssinia, North Africa, Italy, all professed belief in Christ. Besides this, very many had accepted Christianity in Arabia, Persia, Armenia, Georgia, India, France, Spain, Portugal, England, and Germany. In all these lands different languages were spoken, and into many of these tongues translations of the Bible had been made before Muhammad's time; viz. into Latin, Armenian, Syriac, Coptic, Æthiopic, Gothic, Georgian. Besides this, the Old Testament existed in the original Hebrew, and the New Testament in the original Greek. The Old Testament had also been translated into Greek, and much of it into Aramaic.
The Jews also were to be found in all the countries we have mentioned. They were divided into more or less opposed parties, and the Christians into many sects hostile to one another. Had any Jewish or Christian sect therefore attempted to corrupt any one of the Sacred Books, the others would at once have detected and mercilessly exposed the crime. Hence no madman is mad enough to be able to imagine all Jews and Christians agreeing to corrupt the Bible. But, if this had taken place, the crime would have been detected long since, because of the existence of so many MSS. written long before Muhammad's time. The many ancient Versions and the numerous quotations from the Bible found in authors who wrote before Muhammad's time absolutely disprove the charge that the Bible was corrupted in or after his time.
Those Muslims who assert that the Jews and Christians have corrupted their Scriptures say that this was done in order to strike out all the prophecies about Muhammad which those Books contained. We have already seen that the “People of the Book” had no object in doing this, and that the temptation must have rather been to interpolate such passages than to expunge them. But Muhammadan commentators themselves answer the charge by stating that many prophecies of Muhammad are still to be found in the Bible. If so, then the Jews and Christians are evidently not guilty of striking them out. If the attempt was made to commit such a crime, and if it succeeded so far as to expunge some such prophecies, how are we to account for the retention of others which the Qur'an itself 19 asserts to exist in the Holy Scriptures? If these passages really do refer to Muhammad, then it is clear that the Bible has not been corrupted in the manner and with the object stated by Muslims. For example, the Qur'an states 20 that Muhammad is mentioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. Commentators say that the reference is to Christ's promise of the coming of the Paraclete, and refer to John 16:7. Christians do not think that the promise there given did refer to Muhammad. But the fact that the verse still stands in the New Testament shows that it has not been omitted. If Christians had desired to omit any passage relating to Muhammad, surely on no account would they have left this verse in the Bible, for it is the only one distinctly appealed to in the Qur'an as proving Muhammad's claims. Moreover, everyone of learning among them knew that Mani had made a claim to be the Paraclete, basing his pretensions upon this verse. Yet, when he had been detected as an impostor, and when his religion had perished off the earth, Christians still preserved this verse in the Gospel.
The Jews found in the Old Testament many Messianic Prophecies. The Christians claimed that these had in large measure already been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, and asserted that this was a proof that He was the Messiah. These Messianic passages were and are a terrible condemnation of the Jews. Yet the Jews have never attempted to omit them from the Old Testament. Had they wished to destroy the prophecies relating to Christ, they would have tried to erase from their Holy Scriptures the following passages, besides very many others: Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; Psalms 22:14-18; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6, 7; Isaiah 11:1-10; Isaiah lii. 13-fin. and liii; Daniel 7:13, 14; Daniel 9:24-27; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 12:10. For all these passages clearly speak of Him (compare Luke 24:25-27). Another series of passages which the Jews would have struck out of the Bible, if they had dared to endeavour to corrupt it, are those which recite and condemn their past sins. But even these are found to-day in the Hebrew Old Testament as well as in all the Versions. God had commanded them to observe the Law of the Torah (Joshua 1:7) and not to add thereto or detract therefrom (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). Hence they have until now so carefully preserved the whole of the Old Testament that, lest a word or a letter should be lost, they have counted every letter and word in each book, and recorded the numbers. The copies of the Old Testament in the original Hebrew in use among Christians are the same as those that are used by Jews: in fact, they are printed at the same presses.
Lest there should still remain in any reader's mind the supposition that perhaps the Jews may have corrupted their Old Testament before Christ's time, though they evidently could not have done so afterwards, it should be observed that, as the Qur'an truly 21 says, Christ confirmed the Sacred Scriptures which they then had, and which are the very same that they now have. Neither Christ nor any one of His Apostles have in any part of the New Testament accused the Jews of corrupting their Scriptures, though their real sins are denounced. On the contrary, everywhere the New Testament asserts the genuineness of the Old Testament, and urges men to study it. This will be clear from such passages as: Matthew 5:17, 18; 22:31, 32; Mark 7:6-10; Luke 11:29-32; 24:25-27; John 5:39, 45-47; 2 Timothy 3:16. Hence it is plain that in the time of Christ and His Apostles the Old Testament was admitted to consist of inspired, true and uncorrupted books. Surely, if the Jews had falsified them, Christ would have openly rebuked them for such great wickedness. He would also doubtless have pointed out the corrupted passages, and He would have corrected these, for the instruction of His disciples.
This argument serves also to show that the Scriptures had not been destroyed or corrupted at the fall of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar or during the Babylonian captivity. Otherwise Christ would have told us this.
Some Muslim writers venture to assert that they can prove that the Torah has been purposely corrupted in certain places. One of these is said to be Deuteronomy 27:4. Here the Samaritan Pentateuch has “on Mount Gerizim”, while the Hebrew has “on Mount Ebal”. But as not only the Hebrew but all the ancient versions (Septuagint, Latin Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta, Armenian, Æthiopic) have “Ebal”, and not “Gerizim”, this is almost certainly correct. It was not the Jews but the Samaritans who tried to corrupt the text, but they evidently failed to do so. Or their reading may possibly be due to the honest attempt of some scribe to correct what he fancied to be another copyist's blunder, since in ver. 12 the blessings are to be uttered by certain tribes standing on Mount Gerizim. Had the Jews tried to change anything, they would have changed ver. 12, not ver. 4. There is therefore proof that the Jews did not corrupt this passage, though perhaps the Samaritans attempted to do so. If they tried, they failed.
Again, as has already been pointed out, the numbers which give the ages of the Patriarchs in Genesis 5 and 11 differ somewhat in the Hebrew from those found in the Samaritan copy of the Torah and in the Septuagint Version. But this is almost certainly accidental. In all old books figures are very apt to be mistaken for one another. In these matters it is clear that the various readings affect neither morality nor doctrines.
Certain Muslim writers have endeavoured to prove that there are many contradictions in the Bible, and they allege this as a proof that the books have been corrupted. But among all reasonable men it is an admitted fact that, when two or more writers give separate accounts of any event, there always is found some difference between one narrative and another; otherwise collusion is considered as proved. Such differences may amount to contradiction in the opinion of one who does not know all the facts of the case, but not in that of men who have studied the matter thoroughly. The very existence of such differences and apparent contradictions, e.g. in the two genealogies of Christ (Matthew i; Luke iii) and the two accounts of Judas' death (Matthew 27:5; Acts 1:18, 19), is a conclusive proof that no one has corrupted the text of the Scriptures: otherwise these differences would have been removed.
Some assert that the New Testament has been falsified by the interpolation of the following passages: Mark 16:9-20; John 5:3, 4; 7:53; 8:11; 1 John 5:7. This statement is not quite accurate. We Christians have discovered that these verses do not exist in the earliest MSS., and hence we have recognized that they are, as it were, marginal notes which some scribe fancied were part of the text, and therefore copied into it. But these passages do not alter a single doctrine. The facts mentioned very concisely in Mark 16:9-20 are more fully detailed elsewhere in the Gospels. The story of the adulteress is related by Papias. 22 The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is clearly taught in Matthew 28:19, and in very many other places. Hence the omission of the verses we have mentioned does not in the slightest degree affect a single doctrine of the Christian faith.
In this respect there is a great difference between the Bible and the Qur’an. Men of learning know that some of the Shi'ah party have affirmed that certain verses in the Qur'an have been altered by the Khalifahs 'Umar and 'Uthman, in order to conceal the fact that 'Ali should have been the first Khalifah, and that the Imamat should have continued in his family. Others say that the whole of a Surah, which they call Suratu’n Nurain, has been omitted for the same reason. It is not our purpose to inquire whether or not there is any truth in these statements, although it is evident that to Muslims the matter is of the very greatest importance; for, if even the Suratu’n Nurain is properly part of the Qur'an, then the fate of the Sunnis is not a happy one, since in that Surah it is said of them: “Verily 23 for them there is a place in Hell: from it they shall not deviate.” Mirza Muhsin of Kashmir, surnamed Fani, in his Dabistan-i Mazahib (printed at Bombay, A.H. 1292, pp. 220, 221), gives the whole of the Suratu’n Nurain, and says that some of the Shi'ah party “state that 'Uthman, having burnt the original documents (المَصَاحِف), struck out some of the Surahs which were in favour of 'Ali and the superiority of his family: and one of those Surahs 24 is this”. He also informs us that some of the 'Ali Ilahis deny that the Qur'an is the original one that was sent down on Muhammad, as Muslims in general say it was, but that these sectaries affirm that the Qur'an which now exists is the composition of Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and 'Uthman. It is quite true that all scholars believe that these statements are wrong, but yet no one can deny that they have been made and maintained with certain arguments by some Muslims. For our present purpose it is sufficient to point out that these questions about the asserted additions to or omissions from the text of the Qur’an affect the salvation of every Muslim, if Islam is God's way of salvation. On the other hand, the questions that have been raised about the text of the Bible not only do not affect the salvation of a single Christian, but they do not even render doubtful one of the least important of the doctrines of the Christian faith.
Another argument brought against the Bible by some Muslims is that certain books which were once part of it have been lost; for instance, the Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13) and the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14). But these were never part of the Bible, just as the books ascribed in the Qur'an to Abraham and others were never parts of the Qur'an. 25
It has been said that the Roman Catholic Bible contains books which are omitted from that of the Protestants. In answer to this it should be known that in the New Testament all Christians receive the same Canonical Books. To the Old Testament the Roman Catholics have added certain books which were not accepted by the early Christian Church, which were never in the Jewish Canon of Scripture, and which do not exist in the Hebrew language. We Protestants receive the Hebrew Canonical Books of the Old Testament as they were received and confirmed and handed down to us by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles. But even if the additional books received by the Roman Catholics and the Greek Church be admitted, their admission will not alter a single doctrine of the Christian faith. There are differences of doctrine between these Churches and the Protestant Churches, but these are not based upon different Scriptures, just as the existence of so many sects among Muslims is not due to differences in the Qur'an which is in circulation among them all.
We have already spoken about the ancient MSS. of the Old Testament and of the New in their original languages, and about the ancient Versions of the Bible in different tongues which are no longer spoken among men. But besides all this we must briefly point out the evidence which early Christian writers give upon the subject with which this chapter deals. We have books written by some hundreds of these men, some in Greek, others in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian, beginning in the first century and continuing up to Muhammad's time and later. The earliest non-Canonical Christian writing which remains is Clement of Rome's Epistle to the Corinthians (A.D. 93-95); then come Ignatius's seven Letters (A.D. 109-116) and one by Polycarp (about A.D. 110): then the Epistle wrongly ascribed to Barnabas (A.D. l00-130). All these wrote in Greek, and we still have these letters. After them come great numbers of writers in the other languages which we have mentioned. All whose works in whole or in part have survived bear witness to the fact that the faith of the Christians of their own times was the same as is contained in the Bible which we now have. Moreover, in the works of these authors are found quotations from the Holy Scriptures. These sometimes give merely the general sense, sometimes they quote the actual words of the verses found in the Old Testament and the New. This is another proof that the Bible has never at any time been corrupted, whether before or after the Hijrah, and that no other books have ever been substituted for the genuine books of the Old Testament and the New.
If a body of wicked and godless men in Muhammad's time or later had wished to corrupt, change, or falsify the Holy Scriptures, they would have found it an absolutely impossible undertaking. They would have had to obtain and falsify all Biblical MSS. in the original Hebrew and Greek, wherever these might be. This would entail travelling over a large part of Europe, Asia, and Africa, visiting every Church and Synagogue, every library, every Christian or Jewish house of any importance. But it would have been necessary to find and alter all copies of the Versions of the Bible too. These were in Latin, Greek, Coptic, Gothic, Syriac, Æthiopic, Armenian, Georgian, &c. Then a visit would have had to be paid to the Samaritans, and permission gained to tamper with their ancient and carefully treasured MSS. of the Torah and their later version of it into their own tongue. The Jews would have had to corrupt their Aramaic Targums. Then the forgers would have had to find every Christian book written in the languages already mentioned, in order to falsify the quotations from the Sacred Scriptures which it might contain. If a single book in any of these languages escaped falsification, all their trouble would be in vain. Then it would be necessary to get all Jews and Christians to forget what they had learnt of the Bible, and to falsify the tablets of their memories too. No man of understanding will fancy that all this was possible: still less will he believe that men would be able to prevail on the whole Jewish and Christian world to agree to such a crime 26 in order that they might here be oppressed by Muslims and hereafter might justly suffer from God's wrath.
Let us imagine, if we can, a body of Muslims in our own day, or even before the invention of printing and lithography, determining to falsify every copy of the Qur'an and all the religious books of the whole Islamic world. How absurd does such an idea seem! Yet the Qur'an is not translated into so many tongues as the Bible was in Muhammad's time. Even if every copy of the Qur'an were lost or corrupted, its text might easily be reproduced from the quotations in the works of the Commentators, and even in such books as Ibn Hisham's Siratu’r Rasul, in Katibu'l Waqidi's Kitabu'l Maghazi, Futuhu'sh Sham, Futuhu'l Misr, Futuhu'l 'Ajam, in the Histories of At Tabari and Ibn Athir, and in other ancient books. No one can conceive of the possibility of corrupting all these, even though they are all in one and the same language. How much greater the task of falsifying all Biblical quotations in so many different languages!
But, had this task been accomplished, the fraud would have been exposed through the discovery of the very ancient MSS. of long-lost early Christian works during the last few years. Not a few writings of ancient times in Greek, Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac, the names of which were known to us, but which every scholar believed to have perished many hundreds of years ago, have recently been found in old convent libraries and elsewhere. Of these three are especially famous: (1) the Didakhe or “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (A.D. 131-160); (2) the Apology of Aristides (A.D. 138-147); and (3) the Diatessaron of Tatian (A.D. 160-170). As these books were lost long before Muhammad's time, they cannot possibly have been corrupted after his appearance. They show us that the Christian Faith in those very early days taught exactly the same doctrines that are found in the Old Testament and the New now in circulation throughout the world. Hence the Christian Faith taught in the Bible has not been corrupted since the days of the Apostles.
Another fact which confutes the vulgar theory of tahrif is that the Khalifah 'Umar, when his armies conquered Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, found at Caesarea, Alexandria, and many other places, great libraries full of books. Among these were many copies of the Holy Scriptures and of books composed by Christian teachers. The Muslims might have preserved these books and referred to them in after ages, in order to know whether or not the Christian Scriptures in later times were or were not falsified. But Abu'l Faraj informs us that, when the Khalifah 'Umar was asked what was to be done with the great Alexandrian Library, he ordered it to be destroyed. This was done. In the same way the author of the Kashfu'z Zunun (كشف الظَّنُون) tells us that the same Khalifah ordered the libraries of Persia also to be destroyed when Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas (سعد ابن ابي وقَّاص) 27 conquered Persia. If the Muslims had preserved some of the copies of the Bible that then fell into their hands, they would have been able to prevent the possibility of the falsification of these books in later times, should anyone have wished to corrupt Holy Scripture. Believing as they did that the Qur'an was the “Protector” (مُهيمِنَأ Surah 5:52) of “the Book of God”, such conduct would have been very suitable on the part of Muslims. But what the Muslims failed to do the Christians did, for (as we have seen) we have in our possession not a few MSS. of the Bible which were written some centuries before the Hijrah, and which escaped the fate that probably befell many in the Alexandrian Library and elsewhere. Learned Muslims who visit Rome, or St. Petersburg, or Paris, or London, can see some of these ancient MSS. for themselves. Moreover, photographic reproductions of some of them have been published. It is from a comparison of these MSS. with one another that our present Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament are published, and from them come the translations now circulated in more than 400 languages.
From the evidence which we have briefly summed up in this chapter it is clear that the most learned Muslim commentators of the past and the leading scholars at present among them are right in asserting that the Sacred Scriptures of the Jews and Christians have not undergone corruption either before or since Muhammad's time. We have also seen that the Old Testament and the New have never been abrogated and can never be abrogated in the facts which they relate or in the doctrines and moral principles which they teach. It has been shown that the Old Testament and the New now in circulation are those which were in the hands of Jews and Christians in Muhammad's time, and that the Qur'an itself bears witness to them, calling them by many lofty titles, bidding Muslims profess faith in them, 28 and asserting that it was itself sent down by God Most High in order to confirm the Bible and to be a “Protector” 29 to it.
Hence it follows that those Muslims who truly believe in the Qur'an must see that it is their duty not to let themselves be misled by the prejudices of the ignorant, but to obey the Qur'an by taking the Bible for a light and a guidance. 30 To do this it is necessary to study it with sincere prayer to the Most Merciful God that He may open their hearts to understand its teachings and walk in the right way, the way of those unto whom He is gracious, not of those who go astray.
1. Vol. iii, p. 598. Compare the Tradition on the authority of 'Abdu'llah ibn 'Umar, about the Verse of Stoning being hidden with his hand by a Jew while he read what came before and what followed it: Mishkat, Kitabu'l Hudud: cap. i, p. 301.
2. Stoning was the punishment prescribed in the Torah for unchastity in a betrothed virgin. The kind of death to which an adulterous wife should be put was not specified (Leviticus 20:10). Hence perhaps the dispute among the Jews on the subject.
3. Mishkat, p. 301.
4. Kitabu'l Hudud, fasl i, p. 301.
5. See marginal note on p. 301 of the Mishkat.
6. Surah 2:39.
7. Surah 3:72.
8. Surah 2:95.
9. Ar Razi, vol. 1, pp. 573-576; Baizawi, vol. 1, pp. 67, 68.
10. Vol. 3, pp. 337, 338.
11. Surah 5:52.
12. He records it, but does not adopt it. In De Doctrina Christiana, lib. ii, cap. 15, he seems to favour the numbers in the LXX, but in De Civitate Dei, lib. xv, capp. 10, 11, 13, he decides in favour of the Hebrew text on this point.
13. Vol.1 i. p. 78.
14. In another edition of Baizawi, vol. 1, pp. 104, 105.
15. Vol. 1, p. 143.
16. Other various readings in the Qur'an will meet us as we proceed in the present Treatise.
17. For the account of the revision of the Qur'an under 'Uthman the Khalifah, see Mishkatu’l Masabih, pp. 185, 186. There we are told that, after the revision, he ordered every sheet and volume of the older form of the Qur'an to be burnt, except Hafsah's copy. But Marwan, when he was governor of Medinah, burnt that also.
18. Compare Manaru'l Haqq, pp. 14, 15, 16.
19. Surah 7:156. But see Part III, ch. ii, of this Treatise.
20. Surah lxi. 6.
21. Surahs 3:44; 5:50.
22. Eusebius, Ecc. Hist., Bk. iii, ch. 39.
23. إنْ لَهُمْ فِي جَهَنْمَ مَقَامًا عَنْهُ لاَ يَعْدِلوُنَ
24.و بعضى از ايشان كَويند كه عثمان مصاحفرا سوختة بعضى از سورة ها كه در شأنِ على وفضلِ آلش بود بر انداخت ـ و يكى از آن سورةها اين است (Dabistan-i Mazahib, p. 220)
25. Surahs 2:130 (Baizawi explains “what was sent down to Abraham”, &c., as الصّحُفُ); 3:78; 4:161. Compare also the mention of God's “Books” (وَكُتُبِهِ) in Surah 2:285 and elsewhere; also Surah lxxxvii. 19 صُحُفِ إبْرَهيمَ.
26. The Qur'an tells us (Surah 3:109, 110) that in Muhammad's time there existed among the People of the Book some good men who used to recite the Book at night. Hence it is clear (1) that these righteous men would not have allowed it to be corrupted; (2) that the Book then existed; (3) that it was known and recited.
27. See Part III, ch. vii.
28. e.g. in Surahs 2:130; 3:78.
29. Surah 5:52.
30. Surah 40:56.