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RELIGION

Islam and the Bible: Part 1

By John Rankin
Theological Education Institute

1. The nature of the Bible and the nature of the Qur'an
 
The Bible (which means "the Book") is composed of 66 books written over thousands of years by many different and highly literate people, Hebrews and Christians, tracing back to Adam, who lived the story of God's presence in their lives. It is attested to by a whole redemptive community over time, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Bible starts with the historical story of creation, identifies the story of the first sin, and traces the story of redemption to the first and second comings of the Messiah. The Bible, on its own terms, expects all of its claims to be tested by the disciplines of history, science, law and reason; indeed, the Bible is the source for these disciplines, and it invites the toughest questions of its skeptics.
 
The Qur'an (which means "Recitation") is the holy book of the religion of Islam (a word which means "submit"). The Islamic people are known as Muslims. The origin of this word is uncertain, either from a people in sixth century A.D. who originally followed a prophet named Maslamah, or it may mean "traitor," used originally as a derogatory word by those who opposed Islam, but later adopted as a badge of honor by followers of Islam. The Qur'an is composed of 114 Surahs. The first Surah is short and gives a model prayer for Muslims. Surahs 2-114 do not have a historical or theological order, but they go in order from the longest to the shortest. Surahs may be regarded as chapters, but not in the biblical sense of an ordered larger text. Rather, each Surah is regarded as a distinct revelation given by the Muslim god Allah to the otherwise illiterate Muhammad (ca. 570-632 A.D.), during the last 22 years of his life. The Qur'an is designed for recitation by faithful Muslims who are expected to submit to it without questions.
 
Thus, we note some crucial distinctions. The Bible starts with the origin of history, and traces history to the time of Jesus's first disciples, and is written by many people over thousands of years who belong to a redemptive community. The witness of many, where cross-examination of truth claims is assumed. The Qur'an comes through one man over 22 years, starts with a doctrinal prayer, and is historically and theologically unordered thereafter. The witness of one, where there is no cross-examination of truth claims.
 
2. The God of the Bible and Allah of the Qur'an
 
The God of the Genesis 1-2 is Yahweh Elohim. In the Hebrew, these names by definition refer to the true Creator who is greater than space, time and number, and who spoke the creation into being. In contrast, the pagan gods of Babylon, Athens, Rome, Egypt, the Indus River Valley et al. were all limited, petty, jealous and capricious deities -- smaller than and subsequent to the material universe. Some skeptics since the 1850s have tried to argue that Yahweh was a Hebrew tribal deity, one of many pagan deities in the ancient Near East. But to do so, they had to twist Scripture and history, and be intellecually dishonest concerning scholarly research.
 
The name of Allah comes from a pagan male deity in Arabia at the time, who had his female consort, Al-Lat. The Qur'an represents Allah as the true and all-powerful god. But in historical terms, we shall see how Muhammad elevated a local tribal deity to be the One God, in order to advance his stature as the Prophet of the One God.
 
Thus we see a conflict, which solid historical work reveals: Unbelievers seek to reduce the true God in Genesis to the level of a pagan and limited deity; the god of Islam is in reality an obscure pagan deity who has been raised to the level of being the "One God."
 

John Rankin is the Founder and President of the Theological Education Institue (TEI) of Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of the three-volume series "First The Gospel, Then Politics" and host of "The Mars Hill Forum Series," which asks the toughest questions of leading skeptics.

Rev. Rankin has his Masters of Theology (Th.M)  from Harvard Divinity School and is a graduate of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

website: www.teihartford.com



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